SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A group of 10 community leaders graduated Saturday in San Juan from the first U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)-sponsored citizens academy. The graduation took place at the RL Shooting Club in Caguas where HSI San Juan's special agent in charge presented a certificate of completion to the 10 graduates in a special ceremony.
The HSI San Juan Citizens Academy, the first HSI-sponsored in the nation, was developed by the 2013 HSI San Juan Aspiring Leaders Mentorship Agreement (ALMA) cohort as their graduation project. The goal of the academy is to provide selected community leaders with a unique opportunity to receive an inside look at HSI's organizational and operational structure while bolstering a relationship that will enhance agency and community relations.
The 10 community leaders selected to attend the first class underwent a 10-week program, meeting once a week for at least two hours, which provided them with a unique opportunity to experience and learn about the agency through a classroom environment and field training exercises. The curriculum provided for hands-on and interactive activities to keep participant engaged and make the experience memorable. It included the HSI San Juan's communications center, airport operations, illicit trade, human smuggling and trafficking, gangs, Coast Guard interdiction, transportation of evidence, child exploitation, surveillance, seaport operations, controlled deliveries, financial investigations, pre-trial and judicial proceedings, clearing a room, special response team operations, firearms training and team building.
"It is indeed a pleasure to know how 10 community leaders with great responsibilities accepted the challenge and our invitation to participate in this first nationwide citizens academy," said Angel M. Melendez, special agent in charge of HSI San Juan. "This is a historic event as today you become part of our legacy. You become our best emissaries of our agency's values of honor, service and integrity."
The following community leaders composed the HSI San Juan Citizens Academy:
- Melissa De La Torre
- Pedro Jaime Ramirez
- Jose Garcia Ortiz
- Karla Gonzalez
- Marshal D. Morgan
- Angeline S. Liang
- Gloria Benson
- Francisco Aponte Milan
- Hector R. Torres
- Ariel Rivera Vazquez