Ulster BOCES means different things to different people. For Gary Wells it means building connections and ensuring people live in a secure community—goals that began when he pursued a career as a police officer through the Ulster BOCES Criminal Justice program.
Gary remembers that he first became interested in law enforcement when he was five-years-old and a dispute brought the police to his house. An act of kindness from an officer convinced him that they were the “good” guys. “The police brought me outside and one of the City of Kingston Police officers reached his arms out to me,” he recalls. “I wanted to go to him because I felt safe.”
Gary admits that prior to the Ulster BOCES program he was not always a model student and was disengaged in his education. Many of his challenges in school were caused by his skipping school to stay home and play video games. This behavior created a domino effect of poor grades that increased his dislike for school and further contributed to his truancy.
While enrolled at Kingston High School, Gary remembers a visit from Ulster BOCES instructors and staff talking about the Criminal Justice program. He was inspired to enroll in the two-year, half-day program starting in his junior year.
Despite his new motivation towards school, Gary still didn’t always make it to his regular high school classes, but he always made sure to get a ride to the Career & Technical Center to attend his Criminal Justice program. “Spending that half of a day with Mr. Young was the reason I graduated,” he says, adding his instructor’s teaching style, in addition to the appealing material, made a huge difference in his desire to learn.
In fact, he was an exemplary student at Ulster BOCES. Gary completed his classroom homework assignments that reinforced lessons including Penal Law, Juvenile Crime, and Probation and Parole, and the phonetic alphabet. “I didn’t want to be that kid who didn’t care anymore.” He says the course even made learning math and science interesting thanks to integrating the subjects and relating them to his criminal justice studies.
After graduation, Gary enrolled at SUNY Ulster and completed his degree in Criminal Justice in 2016 and then graduated from the SUNY Ulster Police Academy in 2017. He says enrolling in the Ulster BOCES program gave him a foundation for success in both college and at the academy. “I felt I exceeded the other students,” he says.
Now employed as a Village of Ellenville Police officer, Gary says his Criminal Justice teacher provided him with lessons that he still carries with him and uses on the job today— a job that changes every day and includes traffic stops, domestic disputes, and putting people at ease. “His sense of humor was important. I try to make people laugh when it’s appropriate. And he [Young] always went out of his way to help me,” he says about his teacher. “That has helped to make me more compassionate towards people. I know people say they want to help, but I really want to.”
In fact, Gary and Ellenville Police officer Luke Mcintosh, a Broome-Delaware-Tioga BOCES Criminal Justice graduate, came back to the Port Ewen campus last year to speak with the juniors and seniors in the program. Both stressed the importance of being committed to their education and setting goals to attain a successful law enforcement career.
Gary says starting his career path at Ulster BOCES was one of the best choices he could have made. “Now every day that I go to work I don’t feel like I am going to work. I love what I do.”