KYLE, Texas (KXAN) — Those looking to pursue a career as a first responder in Hays County will have a new training facility next year. With a budget of $22.4 million, the Austin Community College Hays Campus will be offering more classes for those focusing on criminal justice and medical services programs.
The ACC Hays Campus opened their doors in 2014 offering degrees in criminal justice, computer information technology and office administration.
“We’re not right down the street, we’re in the community and we take every campus seriously and we are very excited about this partnership at this campus and this opportunity,” said ACC Vice Chair Gigi Edwards Bryant.
Construction for phase two of the campus will begin this summer. Once complete, the Hays Campus will have a law enforcement training center with an emergency vehicle operations track, tactical indoor firing range, police simulation training space and specially designed classrooms for emergency management operations training.
Since opening in 2014, the Hays Campus has seen a 37 percent growth in enrollment. According to ACC, 1,690 students enrolled for the fall 2014 semester and 2,319 enrolled for the fall 2016 semester.
“They provided the best opportunity for me and my schedule, being that I’m a single mom and I needed to still work full time,” said Leader Police Officer Autumn Kessler.
Kessler graduated from the ACC Criminal Justice Program in 2016, she became a sworn police officer shortly after. “It’s a fantastic program and it’s come a long way and where it is going is just amazing,” said Kessler. “I’m envious that I did not have this training facility when I was a student. This is an awesome opportunity.”
For those looking to enroll in 2018, they say the chance to take classes at the new facility is a dream come true. “I’ve been wanting to do this since I was little. I used to watch America’s Most Wanted and I wanted to arrest all the bad guys,” said Jack C. Hays High School student Sanely Espinosa.
“This is a real gateway for me,” said student Genesis Romero.
Romero and Espinosa are both part of their high school’s Criminal Justice Club. “We do SWAT competition, cell extraction competition, basic and felony traffic stops, and crime scene investigation,” said Romero. “I signed up when I was a freshman and I loved it. I never want to go back.”
The two say the expansion of the ACC Hays Campus makes it possible for them to turn their passion into a career. “I can just drive here in five minutes and I can still live with my family and come here to school,” said Espinosa.
Espinosa says because the campus is so close to her home, she will be the first person in her family to go to college. “It gives me a big opportunity,” she said.