When I grow up: Nic wants to protect the good people

OKEECHOBEE — “I don’t like that there are bad people out there who hurt others,” says 9-year-old Nicholas Cole, and that’s why his goal is to become a K-9 officer when he grows up. He wants to protect the good people.

Nic Cole with a geocache he and his family recently found. Special to the Lake Okeechobee News.

Officer Ramon Liberato Jr. wanted to be a police officer when he was Nic’s age too, and he recently realized his dream when he graduated from the police academy. Twenty-year-old Officer Liberato has lived in Okeechobee his whole life with his parents Ramon Sr. and Olivia, his younger brother Alejandro and his older sister Thania. As a child, he enjoyed sports, especially cross-country and soccer, which he now coaches for OCRA.

Officer Ramon Liberato Jr. Lake Okeechobee News/Cathy Womble.

Education was always important to Officer Liberato, and he enjoyed most of his classes, but he especially liked science. He participated in the dual-enrollment program during high school and was able to earn 32 credits by the time he graduated from high school. Soon after graduating from high school, he was able to complete his AA degree in general education with a focus on criminal justice, and he intends to start working on his BA as soon as he completes all his training.

As soon as he turned 18, he checked into the ride-along program with the Okeechobee Police Department where he said Sgt. Aurelio Almazan and Officer Cesar Romero took him under their wings and helped him navigate his way into the department. He began doing ride-alongs at 18, and joined the auxiliary at 19 then went into the academy, which was sponsored by the city.

The academy took six and a half months to complete, he explained, and then he started his field training on Nov. 14. Field training consists of 24 shifts where he will learn dispatch, work with the detectives, work with the narcotics task force, familiarize himself with the streets (although in his case, he grew up here and knows the area), learn the software they use and learn to understand and respond to calls.

He says he plans to continue to take classes at IRSC to learn more about criminal justice, not just what he needs for his BA.

Officer Liberato’s advice to Nicholas is to follow your dreams. “It doesn’t seem like work if you are doing something you love.” He also suggests doing a ride along when he is old enough because that way he can really tell what it’s like.

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