WAXAHACHIE -- Normally, the combination of schoolkids, guns and police would be a bad story. But, for the past two weeks the Ellis County Sheriff's Office has been teaching 15 students how to use them... and a lot more.
"Almost the same thing as a regular police academy," says instructor and patrolman Curtis Kaloi. "They're getting 80 hours of intense instruction, both classroom and hands-on."
The course is part of the nationwide Exploring program, which offers what are essentially intensive internships in various career fields to give high school and college students both real-world training for the future and social skills they can use in their everyday lives right now. And with a field as complex as law enforcement, there's a lot to learn!
"[We teach them] the penal code, code of criminal procedure, rappelling, firearms, they did defensive tactics where they learned how to use the batons, and we even taught them bicycle patrols," says Kaloi, who adds the course offers a good refresher opportunity for the professionals who serve as instructors. "But they get to see that other side, too; it's not just the fun stuff we're teaching. You will be doing reports, and you've got to document everything, and you're going to be dealing with people that might not like you."
Obviously there's a lot of that tension on the streets lately, so why do these teenagers want to become cops these days?
"I have law enforcement in my family," says Ennis High School student Angela Duncan, "but also because I want to help people and bring people to justice."
"[The course] definitely highlights the dangers," adds TCC student Austin Amato. "But overall, I want to be a cop more than ever now."
That's good news for the sheriff's office as it uses the Exploring program as a recruiting tool, and the more training these students get now the easier it will be to join the force for real later.
"Usually they're pretty successful at getting hired," notes Kaloi. "It may not be with us, but they're going to get hired somewhere because they've got so much training already invested in them."
To find an Exploring opportunity near you, click here!