Yale program offers deep dive into law enforcement options

Future Law Enforcement Youth Academy’s Class of 2017 poses outside of Sterling Memorial Library.
Future Law Enforcement Youth Academy’s Class of 2017 poses outside of Sterling Memorial Library.

When Nick Tibbetts ’22 B.A. was gaining recognition as a long snapper on the Montville High School football team, he wasn’t thinking about attending Yale. But he knew he was interested in politics and law, so when Tibbetts learned of an opportunity to attend the Future Law Enforcement Youth Academy (FLEYA) at Yale in the summer of 2015, he quickly applied.

I knew it would be a good experience,” he says. Tibbetts and the other selected students — half girls, half boys — stayed overnight on Yale’s campus for one week, learning about a whole range of law enforcement roles from a variety of experts in the FBI, court system, and local and campus police departments. “I was able to learn what possibilities there are. It made me consider pursuing a career in the FBI,” Tibbetts says.

FLEYA, supported by Yale University and the Yale Police Department, was conceived as a way to expose Connecticut high school students to the inner workings of law enforcement. “The FBI in Connecticut did not have a program for shaping and fostering the goals of young people in their dreams to become state, local, or federal law enforcement,” says Charles Grady, community outreach specialist for New Haven’s FBI field office who designed FLEYA.

Grady found a ready partner in Yale Police Department Chief Ronnell Higgins, who had written his master’s thesis on why Yale should partner with the FBI and saw FLEYA as an opportunity to “grow their own” future law enforcement leaders who understood and valued public service. Four years later, the program is being adopted by other cities, including Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Portland, Oregon.

A group shot from a FLEYA program session.
A group shot from a FLEYA program session.

Thirty high school boys and girls representing diverse backgrounds are selected from hundreds of applications and exposed to a wide variety of law enforcement roles during the program — from judges to juvenile defendants, probation officers to secret service officers, narcotics officers to postal inspectors — and given real insight into how these jobs are performed. “They get a sense of the collaboration it takes to succeed,” Grady says. “How investigations are conducted, the court system, and all the partnerships in law enforcement efforts making people in Connecticut and the nation safer.”

For Tibbetts, FLEYA also opened his eyes to Yale, where he was “blown away by the campus” and the tightknit Yale football family. Now, as a Yale student-athlete, he says he’s still considering a career in politics or law and says “FLEYA widened the field” for possible career paths. He’s also remained connected to other students in FLEYA and interacts with them regularly via a Facebook group, as well as speaking to new recruits on campus. “There is a FLEYA family,” he says.

Grady says FLEYA gives kids from all over the state the opportunity to see themselves not only in law enforcement, but at a school like Yale. “If kids can be exposed to Yale, it lights a fire under them,” he says.

The fourth annual FBI New Haven FLEYA for Connecticut high school students will be held July 14 - 20, 2019 on the Yale University campus. The deadline to apply is April 5, 2019. Apply here.

Watch a video from last year’s FLEYA program here.

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Media Contact

Brita Belli: brita.belli@yale.edu, 203-804-1911