City and state officials—along with students, parents and teachers—cut the ribbon last Friday on the nation’s first law-enforcement-oriented high school built from the ground up.
Start-up problems like missing keys and late textbooks were all but forgotten as the High School for Law Enforcement and Safety honored the various individuals who made the school a reality.
The 200,000-square-foot, six-story building opened last September at 116-25 Guy Brewer Boulevard in South Jamaica, after two years of construction. The $130-million facility has offices, classrooms, science labs, two gymnasiums, a boxing ring and a running track on the roof, and doubles as a Police Athletic League center.
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the school will be a vital resource to the Police Department and other law enforcement agencies by educating the next generation of public safety experts.
“It’s going to be generating disciplined, energetic, motivated young people who want to get into law enforcement,” Kelly said. “It’s an ideal place for us to recruit. We’re going to have a Police Department presence here and we’re going to help them do their training, so I’m excited about it.”
Along with the school itself, the curriculum was also built from the ground up, said principal Diahann Malcolm. Mathematics, reading, social studies and the sciences are the core of the curriculum, and students can take electives in forensic sciences, criminology and law.
The school currently enrolls 260 ninth-graders, and one additional grade will be added for the next three academic years. The student body is split into three academies—called Pride, Honesty and Courage—to create a tighter-knit environment. Students are required to wear uniforms to instill a sense of discipline.
“It’s exciting because this has never been done before,” Malcolm said. “There have been some challenges, a lot of which came from the fact that we had to create our own policies.”
According to Parents Association President Annesia Climer, this newness has the added benefit of allowing a new climate of parent engagement to flourish. “The school is very open for parents,” she said. “It’s been a slow process because its a new school, but we do have active members and committees.”
Several speakers at the ceremony praised former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman. She helped envision the project some six years ago, and was key in having it sited across the street from Rochdale Village.
“Once Claire talked with me about it, I jumped right on it,” recalled John Lee, the former superintendent of Queens high schools. “We connected with people on the national scene and at other agencies and colleges to bring it all together.”
The turn of global events since the school’s planning began only served to underscore the importance of its mission, Malcolm said.
“The events of 9-11 catapulted the theme of law enforcement and public safety to its greatest heights. It is our intention that our school, which stands as the best in our city, stand as the best in our country.”
While most of the inaugural class lives in Southeast Queens, students hail from as far away as Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Students say they were drawn to the school for a variety of reasons, such as an interest in the law and the armed forces.
Mamadou Tamboura, 14, of Hollis, decided to apply after watching action movies, and now wants to become a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent. “I like the forensics lab the best,” he said. “I like to do things hands-on.”
During a tour of the school’s centerpiece mock courtroom, student Dayon Bethea, 14, looked right at home behind the bench. “I want to become a Supreme Court judge,” said the beaming Far Rockaway resident, who also designed the school logo.