But Pellegrini wasn’t sure what that career should look like — at
least, that is, until the following year when he joined the Newark
Police Department’s Explorers program, which gives high school students a
window into law enforcement. After one St. Patrick’s Day ridealong,
Pellegrini was hooked — he was only supposed to observe for four hours,
he said, but he convinced an officer to let him tag along for the entire
12-hour shift, until 7 a.m. He felt especially intrigued by one D.U.I
“So much of police work is reactive,” Pellegrini said. “You get a
call because someone was stabbed, or this person overdosed or there’s
been a car crash. Whereas, with D.U.I. enforcement, you’re able to act
proactively — and potentially save lives.”
When it came time to apply for college, UD seemed the obvious choice.
As a first-year student In the AAP in Wilmington, Pellegrini joined the UD Police Department’s
cadet team on the Newark Campus, comprised of part-time student employees who monitor
security cameras, assist with event security and act as safety escorts
for fellow members of the UD community. During his sophomore year,
Pellegrini was promoted to cadet supervisor, meaning (when campus is not
closed due to the coronavirus) he oversees 50 of his peers. He’s also
one of only six cadets who underwent a 24-week training program to
become a cadet dispatcher. Translation: He takes calls from students in
distress and keeps them calm while coordinating a response from sworn
officers. Since 2017, Pellegrini has also served as a part-time park
patrol officer for the Delaware Natural Resources Police, where he
maintains safety procedures at White Clay Creek State Park, about four
miles from campus. (It has remained open during the coronavirus
pandemic.) While he doesn’t carry a gun, he is equipped with everything
else, from handcuffs to a marked car. It was here that he encountered —
and recovered — the stolen firearm, alongside the park’s sworn officers.
But Pellegrini’s passion for protecting and serving extends
beyond his time in uniform. Throughout the year, he volunteers with the
Down Syndrome Association of Delaware (DSA). This nonprofit, run by UD
graduate Lauren Camp Gates, advocates for acceptance and understanding
of the 400,000 Americans with a chromosomal variation that leads to an
increased risk for heart defects, respiratory problems, hearing issues
and other conditions.
Every year, the DSA hosts a summer camp for approximately 100 kids.
During one of these weeklong programs, Pellegrini recruited a K-9
officer from the Delaware Natural Resources Police for a demonstration.
In front of the children, Pellegrini wore a special suit and volunteered
to be tackled by the officer’s apprehension dog. It may sound scary,
Pellegrini explained, but the kids knew it was all pretend. And — along
with demonstrations involving a police helicopter, firetruck and
ambulance — it helped drive home an important point.
“Sometimes, kids with disabilities can be afraid of police and first
responders,” Pellegrini said. “But we wanted to let them know these
people are here to help. So if they get lost or in trouble, they know
there is someone looking out for them.”
Pellegrini also works as a counselor at the camp. One of his charges
is Nathan, a nonverbal boy with both autism and Down syndrome.
“I’ve gotten so much more out of this experience than I expected,” he
said. “Nathan and I developed this connection, and I stay in touch with
him throughout the year. His mom will text me that he’s watching videos
from camp and laughing, and you can’t beat that feeling.”
On his path toward becoming a state trooper, Pellegrini is currently
undergoing his background check. And, as graduation approaches, he is
reflecting on what he’s learned about the profession so far at UD.
Previously, he took a course on problems in law enforcement taught by
Delaware State Trooper Captain Jennifer Griffin, and he is currently
taking a virtual course on leadership. “They’ve been highlights,” he
While there have been several important takeaways from each class, one message remains top of mind.
“Policing is so much more than: ‘Hey, you can’t sell drugs,’ or ‘Hey,
stop speeding,’ ” he said. “It’s important to give back to the
community. You have to be there for the people you serve. Bottom line:
You can’t just talk the talk. You have to find a way to walk the walk.”
Article by Diane Stopyra; photo by Ingrid Pellegrini
Published April 7, 2020