Program shows teens career path
A dozen youth will graduate Monday from a intensive hands-on training and education program that could help them prepare for a career in law enforcement.
The grueling eight-hour, eight-day program that began last Saturday is the first Explorer Cadet Academy held in Willows, said Police Chief Bill Spears.
Taught mostly by Willows police officers, the students — ages 13 and up — were taught the basics of crime scene investigations, special weapons and tactics, behavioral analysis, first aide and cardiopulmonary resuscitation, search procedures and weaponless defense.
They also underwent a daily physical fitness program similar to what they could expect at a real law enforcement academy, Spears said, as well as learn basic law enforcement practices that may be needed in the field as young police volunteers.
"We have these kids under a microscope for 64 hours," said Spears, who started the Explorer Program four years ago. "We push them to their limitations so they can learn."
Gabriela Robles, 20, was thrilled to be a member of the first Explorer Academy.
Robles is studying criminal justice at Butte College, and has been a police volunteer in the Willows Explorer Program since high school.
"This prepares us for more than just helping the police put up barricades," Robles said. "This gives us a deeper understanding of what can and does happen in law enforcement, and what we might be called upon to do when we are riding along with police officers. It prepares us for more responsibility."
Robles plans to attend Butte College Police Academy in the fall and hopes to someday become a detective in a large city's law enforcement agency.
Austin Crocker, 14, plans to join the U.S. Marines, and enjoyed the intensive week of training, particularly the day spent at the pistol and rifle range at Rolling Hills in Corning.
"It was a lot of fun," Crocker said. "I've shot a gun before, but I have never shot a rifle like that."
In addition to extensive exercises, drills and training, the youth had classroom study, did homework and research and took written examinations.
They were also exposed to pepper spray and experienced being "tased" at a low voltage.
Spears has been involved in the Explorer Program for 27 years, with about 500 of his former youth participants going into law enforcement.
Some have become attorneys and judges, while others have simply become responsible and contributing citizens of their communities.
Spears said the Explorer Academy offered participants a great deal more education than just being in the Explorer Program, and that it will help if the students decide to further pursue law enforcement as their chosen career.
Katie Berglof, 16, enrolled in the Explorer Academy for the experience, and has no regrets spending her school vacation in intensive training.
"I want to go into law enforcement, but I'm not sure yet what I want to do," she said. "The shooting was a lot of fun, but the best part was getting to know the other participants in the program."
The Explorer Academy concludes with physical fitness drills on Sunday at Willows Intermediate School.
Graduation will be held at 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall.
CONTACT Susan Meeker at 934-6800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.