3-time LEEP Dream Scholar graduates early, gets first job
— By Jennifer Gomori, POJ Editor
Austin Lynema worked hard to finish his bachelor’s degree in three years and the Law Enforcement Education Program (LEEP) helped him meet that goal. The three-time LEEP Dream Scholarship winner continues to see the rewards of his strong work ethic. He was just hired by the same police department he spent many years working for as a Police Explorer.
“I did work a lot of 40-hour weeks while I was still in school and I went to school year-round for three years,” said Lynema, who worked as a paid Holland Police Department Cadet while gaining additional experience as a Grand Rapids Police Explorer from 2015-2018. He was also a Walker Police Explorer.
“I was able to build my network with Grand Rapids and experience some of the training they have to offer and get to experience some of the types of calls and the nature of the business there,” Lynema said. “Going to a city that’s bigger, the experience is a lot different.”
Lynema received a total of $4,000 in LEEP Dream Scholarships from 2015-2017 to help pay for his college education. “The LEEP scholarship itself allowed me to reduce the amount of schooling I had to pay for. Therefore, I was able to pay for school out of pocket and in doing so I finished college a year early. I went three years to get my four-year degree,” Lynema said.
He graduated Grand Valley State University with a bachelor’s of science degree in Criminal Justice and was hired by Grand Rapids PD in April as a Police Recruit. The department is sponsoring his training at Grand Valley Police Academy. “Aside from being a cadet, this is my first official full-time employment,” he said. “They’re paying for all the academy expenses. It’s a very fortunate opportunity.”
Lynema has accumulated plenty of public safety experience to prepare him for police work. First exposed to public safety through his father, Chad Lynema, a Zeeland Fire Rescue Captain, Austin is a certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) who completed the EMS program at Careerline Tech Center, earning credits at Lake Michigan Community College. “Austin was one of only two students in the Public Safety & Security Service classes to be awarded ‘Excellence in Achievement’ at the annual Careerline Tech Center award ceremony,” wrote Michael Breen, Careerline instructor, in a letter of recommendation for the LEEP scholarship.
He was Commander of Grand Rapids Police Explorers #1871, being honored with 2016 Explorer of the Year, State Team Award, Firearms Expert Award and Perfect Attendance. “As a Post Commander, he is continually tasked with various administrative duties as well as being the point person for practical exercises and demonstrations,” wrote Grand Rapids Police Officer Frank Barthel.
Lynema was a decoy for Michigan Liquor Control Commission undercover alcohol stings; completed Michigan State Police Student Trooper Academy; received a Holland Junior Police Academy Instructor’s Award and the President’s Award for Educational Excellence in high school.
As President of Health Occupation Students of America (HOSA) in his EMT class and a HOSA State Qualifier, he completed training and continuing education with Zeeland Fire Rescue and volunteered in community programs.
Lynema is also active in his community. He participated in cancer patient fundraisers for Pink Heals West and Shields of Hope. He volunteered during Zeeland Fire Rescue Pig-Out, serving meals and directing children’s activities; and Zeeland Fire Day of the Young Child safety and education for youth. “I have seen Austin enthusiastically volunteer at many fundraising events, showing care and compassion to those suffering from cancer. He is always willing to work regardless of the nature of the work he is asked to do,” wrote Holland Public Safety Officer Joel Maat.
Lynema is excited to have the opportunity to work for the large police agency. “There’s a lot of opportunity with Grand Rapids, so it will allow me to branch out and do different things,” he said.