At 57, Jenny Sena is the oldest graduate in the history of the Great Oaks Career Campuses Police Academy. It’s just one more milestone, though, for someone who has been breaking new ground her whole life.
She graduated early from high school and began college at the University of Wisconsin as a 17-year-old. One semester was enough at that point, and on her 18th birthday she enlisted in the military, where she had a plan. “I knew that I wanted to be an officer but wanted to learn the ropes first. We were always told not to volunteer for anything, but I volunteered for everything.”
West Point was the next goal in Sena’s sights, and she was accepted at the U.S. Army Preparatory School. “I was the top graduate from the prep school and got into West Point to study engineering.” While there, she was just the second female regimental commander in the Academy’s history.
From there she went to Aberdeen and then to Ft. Hood – 2nd Armored Division, where she was a maintenance manager for a support battalion. Then, in 1990 as the cold war was ending, she was offered an early release. As she prepared to leave the military, she attended a career fair for Army officers and discovered P&G. “At the time, I considered the FBI but wanted to have and raise children with my husband. I knew that I needed a career that would allow me to do so.”
Her work took her to Tennessee (Memphis and Jackson) and then Cincinnati, but she also traveled the world, working in plants as an auditor in China, Chile, Belgium, Mexico, Canada, and the United States.
Fast forward to 2020, and in retirement Sena decided to act on a life-long dream. “When I was little, I watched police shows and knew that’s what I wanted to do.” It happened quickly; she left her career on April 7 and took the police academy physical training test on May 9.
Being of a different generation than her classmates wasn’t an issue. “The other cadets accepted me and were supportive,” she said. “To them, I was just another cadet.” And Great Oaks was a good fit. “The instructors were excellent, and all have law enforcement experience. They taught us what we needed to know.”
“She was a natural leader among the cadets,” said Great Oaks Police Academy instructor Ed Dye. “She always led by example.”
She graduated with her class in November and, in December, took and passed the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission certification test. “The test was easier than I expected, and that was because of my Great Oaks training.”
Now she’s ready for her next career. She had a specific local police department in mind and has been talking to them. “Fortunately, the department is interested in someone with some life experience.”
I want to help change the public’s perception of policing,” she said. “I had 200 people under me in the military and know how important perceptions are. Besides, I like being part of a community.”
So, right now, Jenny Sena is right where she wants to be. “My mother always said point your sights on what you want to do and do it.”
“I’ll keep doing it until it’s time for me to go.”