The start of the school year offers children a huge choice of extracurricular activities. Some of the usual pastimes include sports, music, art and martial arts. But for students who want something different, the Seminole Police Department Youth Services Unit offers the Police Explorers program for kids ages 6-19.
The program meets twice a month in Hollywood, Big Cypress, Brighton, Immokalee, Naples, Fort Pierce and Tampa. The first meeting of the month contains instructional lessons, while the second incorporates a hands-on activity relating to the previous meeting’s lesson. SPD officers gear the program toward children who may want to pursue law enforcement as a career.
“Our goal is to build a relationship with kids, to be a mentor for them, keep them on the right path and teach teamwork, discipline and leadership,” Sgt. Angie Margotta said. “We fill a gap between SPD and the community so they know there is a place they can go if they need to. They see us every day, but in the Explorer program they see a different side of us. We hope if they ever have a problem, they feel comfortable coming to us to talk about it.”
The program on each reservation is identical, and the curriculum is comprehensive. Topics covered over the course of the year include drill and command, first aid, Eddie Eagle gun safety, crime prevention, fingerprinting, child abuse, domestic abuse, ATV safety, arrest procedures, crime scene investigation, cyber bullying, Internet safety, narcotics and alcohol awareness, and law enforcement history.
Presently, 70 students are members of the program, which culminates with a trip to Washington, D.C. during National Police Week in May. To help pay for the trip, the Explorers fundraise all year.