16:16 PM

Harris County Sheriff’s Officers Graduate from Unique Program

University of St. Thomas has 25 new Celts, and they are all members of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. In a special ceremony at UST’s Link Lee Mansion, the officers graduated from the Specialized Mandarin Chinese Language Training Program. From day one, the initiative had full support from UST alumnus and Harris County Sheriff, Ed Gonzalez.

“I'm extremely happy, proud and supportive of this partnership,” Gonzalez said. “I think it's critical. In a region as diverse as Harris County, sometimes there are differences. But beyond the language, this program points out what unites us instead of what separates us.” 

For officers like Jonathan Moore, the program gives him the confidence to use his newly learned language skills and enhance his relationship with the community he serves.

“It was an exciting program for me,” Moore said. “It opened my eyes because it helped me realize that we are more than just one people. We are a community of different cultures and different perspectives.”

Major Tony Huynh, who oversees the Harris County Sheriff’s Office training division knows the impact this training will have.

“It is amazing how a simple ‘good morning,’ ‘how are you,’ and ‘thank you’ in the citizens’ native language can break down barriers while opening hearts and minds,” said Huynh.  

The program, which resulted from a partnership between the TAIPEI Economic Cultural Office (TECO) in Houston and the UST Center for International Studies, required officers, including Sargent Lakisha Cheatham, to attend in-person classes at St. Thomas once a week for 10 weeks.

Cheatham said, “The most important tool I received from this class is basically knowing the culture. Learning the language was hard, it was challenging, but I appreciated every moment of it.”

For Dr. Hans Stockton, director of the program and Dean of the UST Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences, the most rewarding part of the process was witnessing a special type of transformation in many officers.

Stockton observed, “I saw the officers on the first day of class 10 weeks ago. There's a lot of trepidation. They weren't quite sure what they were in. A little bit nervous about how challenging it might be. Chinese is not an easy language. By the graduation, I got to see how far they've come with their experience. Now, they're prepared and willing to use some basic Chinese language in their day job.”

With its proven success, the first program of its kind in the nation is making plans to expand its offering to other law enforcement agencies in Texas.