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Harker Heights Evening Star
Harker Heights Evening Star

Criminal Justice Students Win Big at Six-State SWACJ Competition

Special to the HHES

Killeen – For ten months, A&M-Central Texas Assistant Professor, Tammy Bracewell, and her students prepared themselves to attend the 2017 Southwestern Association of Criminal Justice Conference in Ft. Worth.

Bracewell selected participants from among current undergraduate criminal justice majors, requiring those who were interested to prepare a research-based response to an interest area most relevant to them because, she said, she knew the competition would require a thorough understanding of theory as well as practice.

But that wasn’t the only hurdle the students would face. Funds were scarce. And while it was their intention to be frugal, it’s no inexpensive proposition transport, feed, register, and provide weekend shelter for eight people.

So, in characteristic fashion, the students and their faculty member worked together to devise a plan. It was October 2016.

For the next three semesters, they prepared academically and, amidst their many other responsibilities, they fund raised, selling snow cones, soliciting friends and family members for sponsorships, holding bake sales, and enlisting the Freddy’s of Harker Heights to agree to host special sales events to benefit the team. When they stopped to add it all up, they had raised $3,500.

“They worked so hard,” observed Bracewell. “It was so much work to get it all done. They learned a lot, and they really rose to the occasion as individuals and as a team.”

Did they ever.

Courtesy Photo
Jamie Haver, Katheen Ramillano-Curtis, Nancy Scarr, Tammy Bracewell, Lynn Greenwood, April Ward, Heather Kroboth, Tatjana Mitchell, Candace Bradburry

This team – the first team from A&M-Central Texas to ever attend the SWACJ Conference – returned to Killeen on Sunday evening, each of the seven participants returning to campus with regional recognition.

Kathleen Ramillano-Curtis, from Killeen, Nancy Scarr, from Harker Heights, and April Ward, of Killeen, competed against nine other undergraduate programs in three consecutive 15 minute rounds of “Quiz Bowl” narrowly losing 1st place to TCU.

In the same competition, fellow students Candace Bradburry, Heather Kroboth, Tatjana Mitchell, all from Killeen, took 5th Place, all matched against undergraduate criminal justice programs in a 6 state region including Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

Graduate student, Jamie Haver, from Lampasas, 51, won 2nd place for a research paper focusing on juvenilles and multisystemic theory.

In a separate competition, Ramillano-Curtis, Scarr, and Ward also won 2nd place in the crime scene investigation competition which required them to respond to a staged homicide scene in a hotel, sketching the room, identifying evidence, collecting blood samples, and securing weapons.

Bracewell praised the students for their enthusiastic approach to the competition, adding that even after 10 months of practice, the students insisted on more practice during their three hour drive to Ft. Worth.

Bracewell takes it in stride, justifiably proud of the students’ preparation, persistence, and performance.

“We were still drilling and practicing the night before the competition, and at 7 a.m. the next morning, we were doing the same with the second team,” she said. “And when students are so motivated to learn, all we want to do is support them right up to the very moment they begin the competition.”

Jamie Haver, a former Austin police officer, now retired, was grateful for the opportunity to attend the conference, and was proud of her performance and the performance of both teams, but lauded Bracewell for her dedication to her students’ success.

“The faculty in this program go over and above for the students,” she beamed. “Dr. Bracewell knows that I want to teach after graduate school, so she makes it a point to make opportunities like this available to us. It’s more than just a curriculum, a program, or even a degree. We build the rest of our lives on successes like this.”

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