Washington, DC - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent Jerry Handley is an avid distance runner, having competed in several marathons.

For Handley, a big part of running, which he tries to do six days a week, is the mental game. That means having the ability to be strong enough to overcome tough spots and believe that his body can push through the adversity of a tough run. When those moments of doubt creep in, Handley thinks about the kids he has worked with in the HSI Special Agent Cadet Program and what they go through.

“I always think of the kids and their strength and courage and it lifts me up and makes me push harder,” Handley said. “Whenever you think you’re having a bad day, it kind of puts things in perspective.”

Back on July 26, 2010, President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order mandating that executive departments and agencies make improvements and begin employing workers with disabilities.

These efforts would be reached through effective increased recruiting, hiring and retention.

In keeping in compliance with the president’s orders, HSI, in partnership with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and MedStar Georgetown University created the HSI Special Agent Cadet Program in 2013. The objective was for ICE to conduct outreach to students with disabilities through a structured, hands-on educational program.

“There are so many segments of work that can be done at the federal level,” said Darren Webb, Resident Agent in Charge, HSI Dalton. “Through this program, we at HSI have the ability to see where those with disabilities excel and allow them to take advantage of their disabilities by gaining employment with ICE through a hiring authority that acknowledges their strengths.”

Webb created the idea and developed the initial concept for the Special Agent Cadet Program to help reach an audience that often gets overlooked. After discussing the idea to launch an education program at ICE for students with disabilities, Webb received the green light to move forward. Those efforts and subsequent results helped the program be honored at the 2014 ICE Director’s Awards.

In working with Georgetown hospital, potential students ages 16-21 were recruited who both the hospital and ICE staff felt could complete the program.

The curriculum was developed based on real-life cases ICE agents have investigated. The agents wanted to make everything hands-on for the cadets by running them through mock investigations that were as close to what was done in the field as possible.