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SPRINGFIELD — Officer Curtis McGuire has become American International College’s (AIC) first graduate of the Western Massachusetts Police Academy. McGuire was among the members of the 65th recruit officer candidate class saluted in a graduation ceremony held at AIC on March 17. The newly minted officers marched to the music of a bagpipe into the Griswold Theater, where they were welcomed by family, friends, and fellow members of law enforcement.

AIC President Hubert Benitez offered a warm welcome speech to the graduates and joked about being in a room full of officers, saying, “I’ve never felt so safe.” Benitez told the graduates he has family members in law enforcement, and he holds police near and dear to his heart. “For AIC, this is a special day that we get to host this great event,” he continued, and thanked the officers for their service.

“I am absolutely overjoyed for Officer McGuire,” said Roberto Gonzalez, AIC chief of Police. “He will continue to serve with the AIC family, and his graduation from the academy, the first for the college, represents a great success.”

McGuire trained under the Campus Police for a year and a half before attending the academy, and now returns to AIC, where he will serve as a campus police officer. “I found a home here [at AIC] and intend to stay for quite a while,” he said.

For the 10-year Army veteran, graduation fulfills a lifelong dream to work in law enforcement. At 45, McGuire was the oldest graduate in the ceremony. “I delayed this for many years because my daughter, who is autistic and epileptic, needed our family’s attention,” he explained. “But when things at home were more under control, I was able to focus on becoming an officer.”

The event came at a time when many police departments around the country are struggling to recruit and keep officers. When asked if it was a difficult time to join the force, McGuire answered, “no … you’ve got to be the change you want to see. We bonded at the academy and learned how to work together to do good. I wouldn’t change a thing.”