HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - News 3 was granted exclusive access to a program designed to increase communication between the FBI and the community.
About two dozen community leaders recently graduated from the FBI Citizens Academy's latest class, including News 3 reporter Margaret Kavanagh.
“I went into it not really knowing what I was getting into,” said Dr. Scott Goodove, Citizens Academy student.
“I kind of went into it with an open mind. I didn’t know exactly what we are going to share or what was going to be shared with us,” said Jay Agustin, another Citizens Academy student.
The program lasted more than 8 weeks.
People sign up for different reasons like wanting to learn more about law enforcement, personal relationships with someone in the FBI and a yearning to understand an agency that intrigues so many people.
“It humanizes what the FBI does, and it demystifies what people are used to seeing in the movies and on TV,” said Special Agent In Charge of the Norfolk FBI Office Martin Culbreth.
Each week, leaders with the FBI covered different topics. They took the group shooting and educated them about evidence, crimes and the various roles within the agency.
“What the Citizens Academy's goal is to take citizens and pull the curtain back and expose them to the vast area of responsibility that this investigative body has,” said Roger Pence, Citizens Academy student.
The program ends with an overnight trip to Washington, D.C. They first day is spent at Quantico, which is where new FBI agents train.
The next day, there is a tour of the J. Edgar Hoover building in Downtown D.C.
"It was an amazing experience - much more than I expected. Just seeing the passion of the agents and their patriotism and their desire to serve the community,” said Georgie Marquez, Citizens Academy student.
“Not only gratifying in their valor and dignity, it’s just an amazing opportunity,” said Jenna Gonzalez, Citizens Academy student.
“Thing I loved the most was getting to see that the FBI is really a small family. I thought it was a really huge organization, and I was just so surprised at how close everybody is,” said Barbara Sgueglia, Citizens Academy student.
“I would recommend it highly to anyone. It’s a blessing, and they do it in a class act way,” said Pence.
Click here for more information about the Citizens Academy.