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Eight Northwestern College Students Attend ACJA’s National Collegiate Conference

Seven Northwestern College students and one graduate traveled to Nashville, Tennessee this spring to attend the 78th National Conference of the American Criminal Justice Association’s Lambda Alpha Epsilon (ACJA/LAE). Both students and faculty of Northwestern College’s Oak Lawn Campus competed alongside the other 212 active subordinate chapters (excluding Members-at-Large Chapters) of the ACJA/LAE throughout the United States, but only the college’s faculty advisor and Criminal Justice Program Coordinator Mark Mitchell walked away with awards. Competition among Criminal Justice students from across the nation was fierce, but each Northwestern College student benefited a great deal from the experience, such as a better understanding of the importance of high standards of ethical conduct, professional training, and the continuance of higher education within the criminal justice field.

Students that traveled to the 6-day national conference and competed in both the physical and written competitions over the 6-day event included: Alex Barton, Juliana Olivas, Justin Mendez and Gerardo Valencia of Chicago; Vanessa Diaz of Blue Island; Mohamed Rodriguez of Oak Forest; and Angelica Williams of Chicago Heights. Also competing for Northwestern College was Eduardo Garcia, also of Chicago, a recent graduate of the college’s Criminal Justice Program and Sergeant-at-Arms of the college’s Chapter.

The ACJA/LAE regional and national competitions are designed to test both the knowledge and skills of criminal justice students as well as law enforcement professionals via events involving firearms, physical agility, crime scene investigations, and written competitions in five disciplines. The competition is divided into three divisions: Professional, Upper and Lower. Students compete in one of two divisions based on their academic level, including the Upper Division (juniors and seniors) and the Lower Division (freshmen and sophomores). Professionals are considered anyone who is working on an advanced degree, has an advanced degree or who works or has worked in a law enforcement position.

All of the Northwestern College students, graduate, and faculty Mark Mitchell (a retired Lieutenant of the Palos Hills Police Department) competed in the five academic categories (corrections, juvenile justice, criminal law, police operation and management, and LAE knowledge); six of the students and the graduate competed in physical agility; and Mitchell competed in the firearms competition. Two crime scene teams were fielded by the college, with a third team consisting of two Northwestern College students and a student from another chapter. Mitchell (competing in the Professional category) won first place in police operations and management, first place in juvenile justice, and third place in corrections as well as top academic award in that category.

An added bonus at the completion was the lottery selection of student Angelica Williams, graduate Eduardo Garcia and Mitchell to each participate in a two hour ride-along (six hours total) with the Lebanon, TN Police Department, each with a different officer. During the ride-along, the officers tended to their regular assignments, allowing the students to see first-hand how the agency avails themselves to the public. One of the officers on the ride-alongs approached Mitchell afterward to express how impressed he was with the breadth of knowledge the student had of the criminal justice system, a tremendous testament to the education students are receiving in the Criminal Justice Program at Northwestern College.

Of particular note, the President of Region VI (where Northwestern College resides) asked Mitchell to assist Phi Alpha Sigma of Western Illinois University with their upcoming fall 2015 conference they are hosting, and to assume the responsibilities of Range Master, thereby overseeing the firearms competition. Mitchell was also asked to assist with the planning of the next national conference to be hosted by Region VI, which will occur in 2018. Mitchell is a 24 year law enforcement official, retiring as a Lieutenant at the Palos Hills Police Department and has been an instructor with Northwestern College since 2004. This year he was elevated to serve as the Criminal Justice Program Coordinator for the college, encompassing students at the Oak Lawn and Chicago Campuses as well as Online. A highly respected law enforcement official, Northwestern College is proud of the acclaim Mitchell has received from the ACJA/LAE and revels in the Northwestern College students’ appreciation of the talent he brings to the Criminal Justice Program.

Northwestern College CJ students at ACJA Nat'l Conference. (L-R): Gerardo Valencia; Justin Mendez; Angelica Williams; Eduardo Garcia; Vanessa Diaz; & Alex Barton. Seated, Region VI Pres. Joe Davenport & NC CJ Program Director Mark Mitchell.

Northwestern College CJ students at ACJA Nat’l Conference. (L-R): Gerardo Valencia; Justin Mendez; Angelica Williams; Eduardo Garcia; Vanessa Diaz; & Alex Barton. Seated, Region VI Pres. Joe Davenport & NC CJ Program Director Mark Mitchell.