Officer Mario Calderon DSC 9640
Officer Mario Calderon

Press Release                                                                                        

Date: November 4, 2022

Contact: Lisa Garrett,

(By Lisa Garrett)

Officer Mario Calderon Among Graduates of First PPAT Class

PENDLETON, SC – Two months after graduating from TCTC’s first Police Pre-Academy Training (PPAT) class, Mario Calderon joined the Central Police Department as one of its officers.

He was among the seven students who in December 2021 completed PPAT, the new statewide certificate program that provides a simple path to becoming a law enforcement officer.

With agencies struggling to find and recruit officers, PPAT will produce candidates who are academically and physically ready for the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy which can increase the success rates and graduation rates.

Although 22-year-old Officer Calderon earned a degree from USC-Salkehatchie, he says his training in the 14-week PPAT class gave him the skills and knowledge not covered in previous textbooks and lectures.

“When I heard about the PPAT, I knew it could be beneficial for my future career in law enforcement,” he said.  A major benefit of the pathway is it allows those individuals desiring to become a police officer the ability to get their training before becoming hired by an agency and completing a portion of the state police academy at home,” said Dr. Jackie Blakley, dean of the Business and Public Services Division at TCTC . “Additionally, the PPAT program at TCTC incorporates many industry certifications and additional curriculum into the program that is above and beyond what’s expected by the state.”  

Also, candidates are eligible to receive Lottery Tuition Assistance and SC WINS scholarships, which cover 100% of all tuition costs.

PPAT students learn basic and introductory law enforcement training, tactics, and procedures. The certificate basic training totals 147.5 hours but TCTC CRJ faculty added an additional 50 hours of critical training to the curriculum which includes National Alliance on Mental Health, standardized field sobriety testing, force mitigation and crisis intervention, axon taser and Tactical Emergency Combat Casualty certifications. 

“The quality of the training is where we shine at Tri-County,” said Dr. Blakley.  All courses are taught by faculty who are subject-matter experts and who are current or former law enforcement officers.

“This program gives the students a comprehensive holistic educational experience. The training is relevant and makes students more employable and therefore more successful when they enroll at the Academy to complete training and later in their on-the-job field training,” said Dr. Blakley. 

 “Completion of the program greatly increases the chances of individuals being committed to an agency. Graduates tend to be more invested because of the skills and curriculum competencies gained in the program,” said Dr. Blakley. 

Officer Calderon said the class provided him with valuable on-the-job experience through assigned ride-alongs with Sergeant Brandon Guthrie of the Pickens Police Department. He says this experience led to a recommendation from Sgt. Guthrie for the job in Central.

“I love my job, even on the hard days. I know this will be a lifelong career,” said Officer Calderon.

“I want to serve as a role model for my community,” added Officer Calderon, who admired the police officers who visited the apartment complex he and his family lived in when he was a child. “The officers would connect with the community.  It was a good experience that I remember. That’s the kind of officer I will be.”

He was the first of the inaugural PPAT class to graduate from the Academy. He’s also the first in his family to go to college. His mother moved from Mexico to the United States at age 20 and met his father and they married. “So this was a huge deal for them and for me.”

About Tri-County Technical College

Tri-County Technical College, a public two-year community and technical college serving Anderson, Oconee and Pickens Counties in South Carolina, enrolls more than 9,000 students annually and offers more than 70 major fields of study, including computer technology, industrial electronics, mechatronics, nursing, and university transfer programs. Tri-County boasts the highest student success rate among two-year colleges in the state and ranks in the top one percent nationally for successful student transfers to four-year colleges and universities. To learn more, visit