Heroic Atlanta police officer does double duty as GGC student

Whether immigrating to the U.S. when he was four, leaving college to become a police officer, or ramming his police cruiser through a closed gate to save a man’s life, Jimmy Cenescar has chosen the high road over the easy road every time.

In 2000, Cenescar’s family came from Haiti to Orlando, Florida, for a better life. His father, Helas, found work at a taxi company and his mother, Wisleine, became a health care professional who cared for elderly patients. They not only raised Jimmy and his five siblings, but his father put himself through college and earned several degrees.

“Hard work and the tenacity to never give up was instilled in me from both my parents, and my dear grandmother, Ervilla,” said Cenescar.

The family moved to Georgia in 2008. Cenescar graduated from Paulding County High School in 2015. When he toured potential colleges his senior year, Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC) was the last campus he visited.

“From the moment I stepped onto the campus, I knew I wanted to be part of the Grizzly family. My tour guide was very informative and made me feel like a Grizzly from day one. I knew I would grow and thrive here.”

There was never any doubt what Cenescar would study.

“Criminal behavior and the American justice system have been topics of interest from a very young age thanks to my aunt, Agnes, and my grandmother, Ervilla,” he said. After migrating to the U.S. from Haiti, his aunt wanted to become a police officer herself.

“I remember spending hours reading her policing books and magazines as a young kid,” he said. “When my grandmother and aunt lived in Haiti, being a police officer was a very noble profession. My grandmother loves seeing bad guys get arrested, and my aunt loves the American way of policing. Still to this day, their favorite TV show is ‘COPS.’”

That enthusiasm for policing powered him through his first two years as a criminal justice/criminology major at GGC, after which he stepped off the predictable path once again and enrolled in the Atlanta Police Department Training Academy.

A year later, he re-enrolled at GGC as a full-time Atlanta police officer.

Jimmy Cenescar, GGC student and Atlanta police officer

Cenescar become a hero last October when, during a night shift, he used his police car to ram through a large, locked gate to rescue a man who had driven his car off a bridge and onto a train track about 50 feet below.

“The incident was intense,” Cenescar said. “But while I was trying to ram through that gate, everything seemed like it was going in slow motion. On the third try, I was successful.” It was a scene straight out of a TV show – a heroic act by a first responder that thrilled his aunt and grandmother.

“Now, my aunt is not only living her dream of being an American police officer through me, but thanks to her and my grandmother, I truly enjoy helping people,” Cenescar said.

Back on campus, earning a degree is hard enough without also working as a full-time police officer, but Cenescar said it’s not as difficult as it might seem, thanks to GGC’s supportive faculty and staff.

“Due to the nature of being a police officer in a major city like Atlanta, sometimes I may have to work more than eight hours if I am working on a case. When such events do occur, I notify my professors and tell them I may not make it to class. All of my professors are always understanding and willing to help,” he said. “Having such understanding, caring and supportive professors at GGC has made balancing school and work that much easier.”

Cenescar is on track to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice / criminology and a minor in political science. He plans to continue his career in law enforcement, and his family will be cheering him on.