Police ambassador program helps students with career plans

Wesley Huynh
Wesley Huynh found that working alongside officers in the UC Santa Cruz Department affirmed his plan to go into law enforcement after graduation. (Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)
After graduation, Jessica Bauman will be working for an accounting firm based in Santa Cla
After graduation, Jessica Bauman will be working for an accounting firm based in Santa Clara.

Wesley Huynh was in his bedroom playing "Call of Duty" on his computer when a group of men with rifles burst into his Oakland home. Huynh, a junior in high school, was able to escape through his bedroom window and call the police.

His family was unharmed, and Huynh was consoled by the Oakland Police Department's response in helping calm everyone. The incident left an indelible mark on Huynh and helped crystalize his desire to become a police officer.

Huynh will be graduating Saturday from College 9 with a degree in business management economics and is working toward becoming an officer with the Oakland Police Department. Huynh and others have found their time working as UC Santa Cruz police ambassadors helped prepare them for their careers.

Jessica Bauman, a business management economics student graduating from Stevenson College, spent two years working with the police department's business manager.

"Before, I only had experience in food service," Bauman said. "This was a chance to break away into the business world and learn office skills that would help me later on."

The experience helped her land an internship with KMPG, a global network of accounting firms. After her 10-week internship last summer ended, the company offered her a full-time job after graduation. In addition to getting ready to move to Santa Clara for the job, she's preparing to become a certified public accountant.

Huynh is in the midst of the Oakland Police Academy's selection process. He passed the physical ability test, written examination, interview panel, and a polygraph exam. He's undergoing a background investigation and will soon be assessed psychologically and medically.

If he's accepted into the academy, he'll have six months of classroom training and six months of field training. Having seen the impacts of crime and violence first hand, Huynh wants to help improve his hometown.

"I realize the importance the Oakland Police Department has in this crime-ridden community," Huynh said. "The importance of being there can help deter a robbery or comfort people after a robbery. That's important work I'd like to do to make a difference."

Huynh enrolled in the Citizens Police Academy taught by Officer Tony Contreras during the winter quarter of his first year, thinking that a career in law enforcement might be his calling. By summer 2013, he was working as a police ambassador, a job that can have students helping the department with outreach, presentations, administrative tasks, night safety escorts, and social media.

"Working with the officers really solidified my interest," he said.

The events in Ferguson, Baltimore, and other cities - which have put police officer use-of-force under immense scrutiny - have been opportunities for discussions within the campus department.

"I think law enforcement exists to counteract the negative impacts of crime so people can have a good quality of life," he said. "Law enforcement shouldn't be put on a pedestal, but people should understand it's necessary for society."

UCSC Police Chief Nader Oweis began hosting an early morning workout class on the East Field two years ago to help students get prepared for the physical examination.
He said the students often help give the department a student perspective, which is helpful in deciding which programs and services to offer.

"The police ambassadors are a great asset to the Police Department and the UC Santa Cruz community," Oweis said. "The program allows Police Department staff to coach and mentor students and to teach them transferable skills that they can use in their future careers."