This year the American Legion Department of North Carolina and the North Carolina Highway Patrol celebrated a 25-year partnership in the American Legion Student Trooper Program. The Highway Patrol wanted to do something special this year for the 25th class and they provided a large barracks that could hold up to 60 student trooper cadets. This year 57 cadets from across the state arrived at the Highway Patrol Training Center on Sunday, July 15, the largest class in recent memory, and by Friday, July 20, 51 successfully graduated the program.
During the week the cadets conducted physical fitness, and had several classes ranging from History of the Highway Patrol to Defensive Driving. On Wednesday they went on a field trip to the SBI Crime Lab, American Legion Headquarters, and the museums of Science and Natural History. Thursday evening the class had a cookout and prepares for graduation.
During graduation ceremonies held on July 20, the commander of the North Carolina Highway Patrol, Col. G.M. McNeill Jr. expressed his excitement about the future of law enforcement in North Carolina because of the programs and the young men and women who attend the program. This year the Outstanding Student Trooper Award winner was Elijah Larson. This award is given to the student trooper who excels in leadership and other areas of the program. This year the Highway Patrol also recognized Student Trooper Director Richard Neville and Assistant Director Henry Benavides with a North Carolina State Trooper for their dedication and hard work with the program.
Student Trooper Joshua McNeill said “had a lot of fun, met some nice people, developed a routine, and got stronger both physically and mentally.” North Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper Richard Kirk, one of the volunteer instructors, when asked why he does it replied, “I am a 1996 graduate of the Student Trooper Program, and I was so honored to attend I want to give back to the program.”