Buontempo works with K-9 unit at the Jessup Barracks


Kate Gromacki, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Senior Bella Buontempo has loved dogs since before she can remember. The thought of pursuing a career involving these animals seems like a dream come true for her.

Among many other seniors, Bella has decided to use her senior project as the means for career exploration, specifically with the Maryland State Police K-9 Unit.

For the past couple of months, Bella has been working with a team of police associated with the K-9 unit in Jessup, Maryland. The barracks is operated under the leadership of Keith Runk, who is also one of the JC wrestling coaches as well as Bella’s mentor. She met Mr. Runk years ago when he mentored one of her family member’s senior projects. Mr. Runk has helped guide her through the project and provide the connections she needs to be successful.

“They’ve introduced me to the training, and they’ve shown me some demonstrations so far,” explained Bella. Going to the actual training site of the dogs has given Bella a good idea of the potential careers she could pursue in this direction. She has since focused on the steps to becoming a K-9 handler.

“The goal of my project is to see if I really want to become a K-9 handler. I’d like to show other people that [the police] need more handlers. I’d show what they do and what goes into it,” said Bella.

While attending St. Margaret School, Bella was introduced to the Bel Air K-9 Unit during a school assembly.

This assembly involved a notable demonstration where one the dogs smelled a child’s hand. The child then put on a glove; the glove was removed and hidden, and the dog then found the glove by scent recognition.  This one experience stuck with Bella and exposed her to a potential career that she might not have recognized otherwise.

As part of the project, seniors are asked to work on things that benefit not only themselves but their community as well. To satisfy this requirement, Bella hopes to educate middle schoolers in the same manner she experienced.

“I want to do some sort of demonstration at a couple middle schools just to show what they do. I feel like it’s a decent age where kids are interested enough to learn more,” explained Bella.

Bella noted that her main supporter throughout this project has been her mother. “She was always against dogs and doesn’t really like them, so I think that actually made me like dogs even more,” said Bella with a laugh. “But now that she’s seen what I can do with dogs; she’s on-board and is always pushing me to get more information.”

The research done in this project will continue to benefit Bella as she hopes to go on to study criminology in college.