MERIDEN — The police department cadet program has made some changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but hopes to resume a full schedule of activities next year.
The program, which has about 20 cadets, is run by Officer Jeffrey Witkin. It starts in September and runs through the following summer, featuring regular meetings and events, a week-long summer academy and a camping trip. There was no academy or camping trip over the summer due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Regular meetings stopped in March, resumed in August, but stopped again due to guidelines, Witkin said. He is hoping to be able to resume normal activities by next September.
He said the program teaches citizenship, giving back to the community and the value of a team.
“This group of kids is going places,” Witkin said about the cadets. “...They are going to be great citizens.”
Maria Colandrea recently graduated after four years with the program and was honored by the mayor for her achievements. Colandrea said the program confirmed that she wants a public service career, either in victim services or community corrections.
“Maria is a stellar individual,” Witkin said. “She has a strong desire to become a domestic violence crisis counselor. She’s always known that is what she wants to do.”
Colandrea, 21, is a junior at Southern Connecticut State University. Witkin said she is soft spoken, kind and has “an energy about her.” She excelled in a competition with 45 other cadet programs in New England, becoming the only female to get a perfect score on target shooting.
“The cadet program is a good opportunity to learn what law enforcement really does, as opposed to what popular culture or the media project to you,” Colandrea said in an email Tuesday. “No matter what career one is interested in, whether it be law enforcement or not, the program gives insight on how different organizations come together to create a better society. The program provides help with public speaking or dealing with the public, and is a good opportunity to sharpen leadership skills and give back to the community through volunteering.”
Chief Roberto Rosado said Colandrea is an exemplary cadet, adding it is rewarding to see someone go through the program and become successful. He feels the cadet program is a great way for cadets to learn up close about the work officers do in the community, Rosado said.
“It’s a great way to give back to the community, whether you’re interested in civil service or not,” Rosado said.
Mayor Kevin Scarpati said Colandrea was the recipient of the Spirit of Meriden award in November. He feels the program is invaluable.
“Someone so young but also so sure, so devoted to her community and her studies and others is something I think that certainly stood out,” Scarpati said Monday.