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Criminal Justice

Student Successes

Kyle J

Kirk J. spent eight years in the Coast Guard and returned to school where he got a bachelor’s degree in geography. He did have an interest in public safety, but he notes two experiences that led him to his current path in law enforcement.

First, Kirk had his own personal run-in with the police and left feeling that it was a positive interaction. Later in 2021, Kirk followed the attack at the U.S. Capitol and subsequent negative perspectives about law enforcement. He felt a calling that he could make a positive change in the community and change people’s perspectives about law enforcement.

“It’s a goal of mine to connect with the community and show that law enforcement is here to help. That idea is what sparked my interest in Criminal Justice,” says Kirk.

He returned to the area after getting his degree at the University of Hawaii and began applying to law enforcement agencies. While he waited for the background processes to complete, he took Criminal Justice classes toward his associate’s degree.

“I enjoyed the instructors and materials so much; I kept taking classes beyond what was required. I wanted to learn as much as possible and to become a well-rounded officer. There’s something special about the Criminal Justice instructors. They were always there to guide me on this path.”

Another goal of Kirk’s was to work with the San Mateo Sheriff’s Office. He successfully applied, is starting the academy, and will be sworn in as a sheriff in early October 2023.

“I’m excited to get started! What I learned at Cabrillo put me one step ahead. Taking the classes cemented for me that this is what I want to do. I’ve tried different areer paths and now I’ve found the one I’m going to enjoy.”
Kelly F

Kelly F. remembers being fascinated by the criminal justice system since childhood, loving the show Law and Order. Recently diagnosed with autism, she now calls it her neurodivergent hyperfixation. That fixation, coupled with intense personal experiences, drew her into the Criminal Justice program.

One of those experiences includes being a survivor of a serious trauma. At 18, Kelly was kidnapped and held hostage by a former partner and managed to escape after nine days. She learned to have empathy toward this person and became fascinated by what leads people to conduct such acts.

“I later went into hyperdrive, diving into what makes us tick and what causes people to do things to others that then gets them into the criminal justice system,” says Kelly.

She thought about investigator work with women who experience domestic violence and explored the Criminal Justice program.

“I had been a volunteer medic during the George Floyd protests around this time, so truthfully, I was very apprehensive at my first class two years later being led by a police officer. But I immediately connected with her. We talked about intergenerational trauma and mental health as it relates to the criminal justice system. She encouraged me to go further with my education due to my experiences.”

Kelly is engrossed with epigenetics. Epigenetic changes cause changes to DNA. These changes can be caused by generational trauma. They can modify our anatomy and how our bodies work, therefore changing our behavior. She’s been encouraged to keep working on this, and she has plans to transfer for a degree in criminology, with an end goal of a Ph.D. in forensic psychology. She wants to work with extremely violent offenders to understand how they became who they are.

She is open to sharing that along with autism, she has ADHD, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Complex Trauma Disorder – and holds a 4.0 GPA. Her experiences have been a strength for her as she’s gone through the program.

“Dr. Charles meets her students without judgment and doesn’t put limits on people. That has allowed me to explore the work that interests me.”
Henry Montes
Henry Montes

Now an Inspector in Santa Cruz County District Attorney's office, Henry Montes credits Cabrillo's Public Safety Department for his successful career.

As the youngest of 10 children in a family that migrated from Mexico, Henry was born and raised in Watsonville. When his brother joined law enforcement, Henry became interested as well, and he signed up for the class at Cabrillo which was required to become a reserve officer.

This was a great opportunity as it allowed me to work part-time in law enforcement, gaining experience, while still holding down a full-time job to support my family," says Henry.

This made Henry eligible to join the Watsonville Police Department, and then in 1995 he began working for the Sheriff's Office at the jail. Meanwhile he continued taking courses at Cabrillo, including English writing which he considered his weakness.

Henry continued on his career path, spending four years at the jail, going to the Police Academy, becoming first a patrol officer and later detective with the Sheriff's Office, and then in 2006 moving to the District Attorney's office. There, as Inspector, he is primarily assigned to major crime cases such as homicide, gangs, and extradition. His being bilingual is an asset in his work.

His proudest achievement is attending and graduating the FBI National Academy in Quantico; a three-months training course for state law enforcement officers.

Henry says "It all started 25 years ago at Cabrillo. I appreciated that the instructors were all current or former local law enforcement. It was the best move I've ever made. It was a sacrifice but it was well worth it.

Sandra Raya

As early as the 6th grade, Sandra knew she wanted to work in criminal justice. She won a scholarship to Cabrillo College that year by writing an essay "What I Want to be When I Grow Up," which was being a police officer.

Later, at Watsonville High School she took an elective class, Introduction to Criminal Justice, and became even more interested. She is now in her second year in the Cabrillo program, majoring in Criminal Law and Communications.

My time in the program is going well. I've learned about behaviors and the law enforcement system," says Sandra.

After she finishes at Cabrillo, Sandra plans on transferring to San Jose State University, working toward a degree in criminal justice. She wants to add some psychology studies in as well.

I get a great perspective about psychology from Ginger Charles, and it's what I enjoy the most."

Due to this interest in psychology, Sandra envisions working hand in hand with the justice system in a role such as Domestic Violence Survivor Therapist or Police Counseling.