High school students become ‘investigators’ at college summer camp

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One of the University’s most popular summer programs for high school students, the Crime Scene Investigation Academy allows those interested in a career in the field of criminal justice, investigations and/or medical sciences. forensics to gain hands-on experience in the laboratory and during the processing and investigation of a simulated crime scene.

July 27, 2022

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Student investigators photograph the house from the crime scene.

Sofia Astarbi recently led a team of fellow investigators as they dealt with a crime scene at a West Haven home. She guided several of them through the yard as they took photos of the exterior of the house. Then, inside, putting on their lab coats, they began documenting a crime scene in one of the rooms.

Astarbi, who will be a senior in high school this year, had this hands-on opportunity as a participant in the Crime Scene Investigation Academy at the University of New Haven. While the crime scene they processed was fake, the procedures they followed and the tools they used were real.

“I’m very interested in philosophy and why killers commit the crimes they do,” explained Astarbi, a native of Staten Island, NY. “I am interested in the mental and scientific aspect of a crime. I really enjoyed working with bodily fluids in the laboratory. I don’t know yet what field I want to work in, and it opens more doors for me.

“I have always been interested in forensic medicine”

Astarbi was one of nearly two dozen students to attend one of two sessions offered at the University of New Haven this summer. Among the University’s most popular pre-college summer programs for young people, the academy offers a unique and immersive experience for students entering grades 10-12 in the upcoming academic year.

Halle DiGioia, one of Astarbi’s fellow “investigators”, took several photos of the exterior of the University’s crime scene house, where the fictional crime scene was staged. They included the photos in their presentation to a panel of real investigators – the program’s culminating event.

“I’ve always been interested in forensic science,” said DiGioia, a native of Wallingford, Connecticut, who will start his senior year of high school this fall. “We talked a lot about forensic science, and I realize that I like that more than criminal justice. I am also interested in the psychological side, which is very interesting.

Students prepare to process the crime scene in the University's Crime Scene House.
Students prepare to process the crime scene in the University’s Crime Scene House.
“These students are very curious”

As part of the program, students learn about the history of policing and investigations. They discuss the 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution, exploring what it means for people to be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures. They also learn how to properly and legally obtain a search warrant.

The students collaborated to “request” a search warrant, and Daniel Maxwell, MPA, a prominent criminal justice lecturer and retired police officer in Madison, Connecticut, who co-directs the program, approved it. He hopes students will learn crime scene investigation processes and procedures.

“These students are very curious and they learn things very quickly,” he says. “They ask a lot of good questions. This program is very useful for students who want to get into this field, and some also realize that they don’t want to, which is also valuable. It’s great fun and refreshing to see such young students wanting to get into this job.

Halle DiGioia documents the exterior of the crime scene house.
Halle DiGioia documents the exterior of the crime scene house.
“It gives me a taste of what awaits me”

Earlier in the week, before processing the fictional crime scene, the students gained lab experience, learning about the important work of forensic scientists and preparing them to investigate the fictional crime scene. They cast shoe prints and discovered alternate light sources as well as evidence of bagging.

Manuel Villanueva, a member of the police explorers in his hometown of Windsor Locks, Conn., was excited to get more hands-on experience in the field. He says the academy has given him opportunities he might not have had otherwise.

“The people at the academy made an impact on the pitch – including the professors who taught us,” he said. “Their expertise was very useful. It was great to be able to do so much. I think I want to do this type of work, and I want to gain more knowledge now. It gives me a taste of what awaits me. »

The students swear to tell the truth when they get a search warrant from Professor Daniel Maxwell.
The students swear to tell the truth when they get a search warrant from Professor Daniel Maxwell.
‘100 percent what I want to do’

Developed for high school students with an interest in criminal justice, investigations and/or forensic science, the program aims to help them better understand the reality of crime scene investigations. Students learn that it’s not like what they saw on TV.

For Micah Mfuko, a rising high school student from Hamden, Connecticut, it was this hands-on opportunity to learn more about crime scene investigation that drew him to the program. He particularly enjoyed processing the fictional crime scene at the University’s Crime Scene House.

“I’ve always been interested in forensics and true crime,” he said. “I was curious to see how it worked in the real world. It’s very useful. That’s 100% what I want to do.”

Micah Mfuko photographs the fake crime scene.
Micah Mfuko photographs the fake crime scene.
“I want to go to the University of New Haven”

On the last day of the program, the students presented to their parents what they had found at the crime scene, demonstrating what they had learned during the program. Maria Torre MS, lecturer in forensic science at the University and co-director of the academy with Professor Maxwell, says the program offers high school students unique opportunities they would not otherwise have during the ‘summer.

Manuel Villanueva is ready to enter the scene of the crime.
Manuel Villanueva is ready to enter the scene of the crime.

“It’s great to see such interested and engaged students,” she said. “To see them achieve everything they’ve learned in a few days is amazing, and you see those light bulb moments. They don’t realize how much they’ve learned. A lot of these students will do that kind of thing again. work, and this program is a good starting point.

For DiGioia, the rising elder from Wallingford, Conn., it wasn’t just an opportunity to explore more of the forensic science and crime scene investigation that was so valuable. She was also excited to learn about the countless career opportunities in the field – as well as the programs at the University of New Haven.

“I’ve always considered the University of New Haven to be a great school for this type of work,” she said. “This academy has helped me to see what I want to do. I’m also interested in the psychology side, and I like photography. There are a lot of courses related to these fields at university, and I want to go at the University of New Haven.

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