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Students in graduation
SBP students visit the FBI Newark

When a chance encounter connected St. Benedict’s Prep with the FBI Newark Citizens Academy Alumni Association (FBINewarkCAAA), the organization’s president, Edie Peters Ligouri, didn’t hesitate to seize the moment. Credited with breathing new life into the FBINewarkCAAA’s outreach programs, Liguori, in partnership with the FBI Newark Division and Lakeland Bank, planned, executed, and funded a field trip to Newark’s FBI Division and the American Dream Mall for 22 SBP students and their chaperones in May.

As an organization separate and apart from the FBI which supports the mission of the FBI and serves as its ambassador to the private sector, the FBINewarkCAAA has facilitated numerous programs to raise awareness among Newark’s local citizenry and beyond.

St. Benedict’s students, along with a student group from Cape May County, were given a rare opportunity to step inside the highly secure FBI Newark Division Headquarters. FBI Community Outreach Specialist Arnold Adams greeted the group upon arrival and gave strict instructions to all entering the building. Passing through security screening, students surrendered their cell phones and all electronics paraphernalia at the door – no devices allowed!

An in-depth, informative, and interactive program presented by COS Adams and his colleagues held the rapt attention of every teenager in the room, from the overview of the Bureau to the workings of the Hazardous Evidence Response Team to the frightening realities of sextortion online. Students asked thoughtful questions and engaged with the agents; they were curious, impressed and grateful for the FBI’s role in keeping the nation safe.

After a morning of serious business, the Nickelodeon Universe Theme Park at the American Dream Mall was a lighthearted next stop. It was blissfully uncrowded, and the kids had a blast riding the rides – especially when COS Adams joined them on the roller coasters.

“We appreciated the presenters and coordinators for not only taking time out of their busy schedules to talk to us but also for actively keeping us engaged,” wrote the St. Benedict’s Girls Prep Division students who attended. “The majority of us didn’t know much about the FBI, but we learned that the FBI is just like us. They have families and come from the same neighborhoods and backgrounds as us.”

The Boys Prep Division participants were equally thankful.

“We would like to thank the volunteers and presenters that took time out of their day to talk about what the steps are to join the FBI, how to be safe online, and different scenarios that could be detrimental or life threatening to us,” they wrote. “We also appreciate the opportunity to learn about different chemicals and the hardships that the response teams encounter on a daily basis.”

Thanks to the dedicated efforts of Ligouri, Adams, the FBINewarkCAAA, the FBI, and all of their generous partners, 22 St. Benedict’s Prep students were gifted an experience they unanimously declared “unforgettable.” An experience that may just have inspired some future additions to the FBI.

— Susan Kronberg