Bedrock of future criminal justice jobs built on Granite Hills campus

Jermaine Johnson II

Granite Hills concludes construction at their CTE justice center, is ready to welcome students 

PORTERVILLE – When students are finally able to return to Granite Hills High School, they’ll enjoy a luxury that few other students in the state will have. The new Creer Techincal Education (CTE) Justice Center on the school’s campus has finished construction and is ready to open.

A notice of completion for the project was approved at last Thursday’s Porterville Unified School District (PUSD) meeting. This came three months after Granite Hills held a groundbreaking ceremony that was attended by superintendent Nate Nelson, Board President Lillian Durbin, Tulare County District Attorney (DA) Tim Ward, Tulare County Assistant DA Robert Dempsie, Porterville Police Department Chief Eric Kroutil, plus a few other members of the board and of the justice and law enforcement community.

The high school has been working on newer facilities for their various pathways. The new justice center will mainly benefit students in the Law, Justice and Ethics (LJE) pathway but members of the public will occasionally be able to use it. Granite Hills is one of the only schools in California to have a justice center on their campus with a working courtroom. It will be used for mock trials and will also have new classrooms and a forensic lab. The timing is also beneficial since the Tulare County Public Defender’s Office and the DA’s office has recently opened a facility in Porterville. According to PUSD’s public information officer Jason Pommier, this facility along with the evolution of the LJE pathway, will go a long way in creating equity within the legal profession for students in Porterville and showing them the vast array of career options that they have, especially for their minority students.

“With our socioeconomic status here in Porterville, we have a lot of Latino students. So now we can see a lot of those students have the opportunity to work with the DA office and have more homegrown lawyers work here,” Pommier said.

Assistant DA Robert Dempsie sits on the advisory board for the program. He deems the state has recognized the hard work of the students in the LJE pathway with the grant to build this building. Other members of the advisory board are made up of business partners from various offices such as the DA, Judge Roper from the Tulare County Superior Court, officers from California Highway Patrol, Porterville Police Department, Tulare County Sheriff’s Department, and Tulare County Public Defender office.

“All of these organizations are there to show students the type of professions that are available in our community and throughout the state. Law enforcement agencies can recruit future officers,” Dempsie said.

The advisory board works to engage and build relationships with students. According to Dempsie, it is important in today’s world for young people to have a relationship with law enforcement. Students at Granite Hills can feel comfortable having conversations with judges, police officers and attorneys.

With the new justice center ready to open, the advisory board can now promote events like the annual mock trial. That event usually happens at the Visalia courthouse and includes teams of students from various high schools around Tulare County. They compete by simulating a court trial in front of people like Judge Roper and other attorneys who are there to score. Now that the new justice center at Granite Hills is complete, Depsie hopes that it can host the mock trial in the future.

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