Thomas Solimando is surrounded by family members who have dedicated their lives as first responders in their careers and as volunteers. As his father approaches 45 years of volunteer service as a fireman, Thomas is continuing his family’s legacy of proudly serving and protecting the public as a police officer.
“The most rewarding thing about my career is the positive impact that I have on people,” he says. “Dealing with individuals on their worst days can be exhausting, but it’s amazing to hear how much of an effect you had on their life that day.”
Thomas upholds his duty to ensure a New Jersey community’s safety as a member of its police force since 2021. During his day shifts, he patrols the local schools and by night, he keeps an eye on small business storefronts. Throughout every shift, he is always on call to respond to medical emergencies, disputes, welfare checks, and many other situations. Part of his regular rotation outside of patrolling residential streets is conducting motor vehicle stops. He says his list of responsibilities may look monotonous to some, but being able to help people every day in many different ways is what inspired him to enroll in the police academy.
His long-time goal of a career in law enforcement led him to St. Thomas Aquinas College’s Criminal Justice program. “I chose STAC because it was the perfect fit for what I was looking for,” Thomas says. “I wanted to go to a smaller college close to home but live on campus, and STAC offered this all four years. The classes were small and you could create working relationships with your professors; you weren’t just a number in a lecture hall of 200+ people like at some big universities.”
Internships in the Homicide and Special Victims Units at the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office affirmed Thomas’s career choice. “In my sophomore year, I was able to sit in on an actual autopsy. Nervous before going into the medical examiner’s office, I decided that my reaction was going to continue me on the path of a Criminal Justice degree or show me that I should choose something else. This was a real-life experience that I used to justify staying on the path that I was on because reading about it or seeing pictures is way different than doing it in real life.”
In the Criminal Justice Practicum course, Thomas participated in weekly discussions with other students who were simultaneously interning with various agencies. He says it was his favorite course because in addition to sharing their day-to-day experiences, the students were able to think critically and have in-depth conversations on many different criminal justice issues and topics.
Throughout his college years, Thomas looked forward to courses with all of his professors, especially those taught by Dr. Ellen Chayet and visiting instructor Ira Promisel. He enrolled in many of their classes while also pursuing a dual minor in business management and psychology. Thomas was a member of both the Alpha Phi Sigma and Psi Chi National College Honor Societies and became Vice President of STAC’s Criminal Justice Club.
Athletics have always been a major part of Thomas’s life. As a child, he made it his mission to try every sport, including soccer, karate, track, football, basketball, golf, and lacrosse. At STAC, he was recruited to play on the lacrosse team and served as team captain in his last year. He attributes many of the life lessons he’s learned to playing sports.
“Team sports are a huge part of who I am today, not only because lacrosse was one of the reasons why I chose STAC, but because athletics have taught me so many valuable life lessons that have translated into policing,” he says. Sports are also an important part of Thomas’s downtime. He enjoys golfing and cheering on his favorite teams, the New York Rangers and the New York Jets.
In the future, Thomas hopes to return to STAC and complete a master’s degree in criminal justice administration. He started the degree during the COVID-19 lockdown in early 2020 through the college’s online master’s degree programs. “The pause on the world was a great chance for me to take advantage of STAC’s online master’s program and continue moving forward,” he says. “Education has always been very important to me and I’m looking forward to being a student at STAC again.”