MT. VERNON — For seniors Becca Anderson and Hanna Walton, being able to take part in the criminal justice program at Mt. Vernon High School has helped them solidify their plans for the future while also building relationships that can last a lifetime.

Anderson said that once she found out about the criminal justice program from assistant principal Stan Wilkison, she was interested in taking the class since she knew she had always wanted to be involved in law enforcement.

Anderson said she ended up choosing to go into the army with a goal to be a military dog handler. While she has a passion for the K9 puppies, Anderson said she also chose to go into the army with the benefit of having financial help.

With a furry friend at home, Anderson said that had she not had a dog, she doesn’t believe she’d be where she is now.

“Just being able to help another dog and have it help me in a different way than my dog has done, I think that’s what draws me to it while also being able to be in that law enforcement role and being able to help people,” Anderson said.

Walton said that she has always had a desire to help people, and that criminal justice has been an outlet for her. Originally, Walton wanted to be a crime scene investigator but after taking this class Walton said she realized how many job opportunities there are.

Walton said her end goal is to be a jail navigator, which is social work within the jail. Walton plans to get her bachelor’s in social work from Marion University and join the Indiana Army National Guard, training for military police.

Taking these classes allows students to earn up to 12 total credits through Vincennes University and their Project Excel Program while also earning the ILEA Jail Officer Certification Course and the Emergency Telecommunicator (ETC) Certification. Students also become CPR certified, Chemical Spray (OC) Certified, and NIMS Certified.

“You get to build things together like crime scenes and have a lot of fun,” Walton said. “Just learning with other people that become like a second family to you.”

Criminal justice teacher Leroy Striker started the criminal justice program at Heartland Career Center in Wabash in 2009 and taught there for 12 and a half years before coming to Mt. Vernon High School to teach. Striker started his career as an Indiana State Police Trooper and also served two terms as sheriff for Wabash County.

“First, this course is not about making students police officers; it’s about providing a program for students to learn about all professions in the Criminal Justice Field,” Striker said. “Students learn quickly what the job requirements are for most professions. They gain direction and a pathway plan to attain their chosen career.”

New Palestine High School senior Isabelle Napier said the class has been rewarding and entertaining, especially the way Mr. Striker introduces lessons and has students engaged in the material.

“He easily is the best teacher I’ve ever had because he not only explains the material in a fun and educational way, he is a huge inspiration for me and what kind of life I plan to live down the road,” Napier said.

Napier said she plans to attend West Virginia University in the fall to major in criminology with a career goal to become a criminal profiler.

“This HC3 (Hancock County Career Center) class has been a great stepping stone,” Napier said.

The criminal justice program will be one of the many different kinds of CTE and vocational classes offered at the Hancock County Career Center, also known as Amplify Hancock, which is set to open in fall 2026.

For Hancock County students interested in registering for these CTE classes in the 2024-25 school year, a list providing what classes and which school they are held at can be found here: