Press Release
Posted August 13, 2020

Lorain County Community College (LCCC) celebrated graduation for the 12 cadets from the LCCC Police Academy on Thursday, Aug. 13 with a (socially distant) ceremony in the Stocker Arts Center Hoke Theatre.

Cadets sit socially distanced on the stage of the Hoke Theatre
The LCCC Police Academy graduation on August 13, 2020

Despite the many schedule changes because of the COVID-19 coronavirus, “this police academy class is the embodiment of the words ‘improvise, adapt and overcome’,” said Commander Richard Thomas, who directed the class’s training.

“They encountered numerous schedule changes and delays, including changes in how their classes were presented, taking classes wearing personal protective equipment and the specter of ever more changes constantly lurking on the horizon,” he said.

“Through it all, they maintained a ‘can do’ attitude, and are eager to serve and to be the change agents society is calling for with regard to law enforcement.”

Two cadets were already sworn police officers, the president and vice president of the class. President Joanna Rachel Catalano joined the academy as a commissioned officer with the Elyria Police Department. Catalano quickly rose to the top of the group, both academically and as a leader within the program. Catalano is also a graduate of Heidelberg University.

Class vice president Austin James Helmink is also commissioned by the Elyria Police Department. A veteran of the army, Cadet Helmink demonstrated leadership through the program in various ways, including serving as drill master for marching and military drill training.

The class distinguished themselves through academic excellence with a class average of 96.83 % on all of their exams, quizzes and graded assignments. The group also earned a 100 % pass rate on the state physical conditioning exam. “They emerged ready to serve their communities with excellence, compassion and the understanding that in this profession they must be lifelong learners,” Thomas said.

What all of the graduates have in common is their desire to serve the community. “They have been taught, and have embraced, that they exist as a profession for one reason, and that is to serve others,” Thomas added.

LCCC President Marcia Ballinger, Ph.D. told the class during the ceremony, “You have elected to begin your careers as police officers during one of the most trying times in recent history for law enforcement. As you navigate this current environment of transition and uncertainty, I know that each of you will wear your badge with dignity while bringing safety and security to the communities you serve.”

For more than 30 years, Thomas served the city of North Ridgeville, including 10 years as the chief of police, where he worked with many LCCC police academy cadets following their graduation. “We are honored to now have him on the other side of the program,” said Ballinger.

LCCC is the number one location for first responder training in Lorain County. The police program has been serving Lorain County for 18 years. Since 2002, two classes have graduated each year. The vast majority of those officers are working and serving communities in Northeast Ohio. More than 600 cadets have successfully completed the program.

For more information about the LCCC Police Training Academy, visit