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Explorers: a career waiting to happen

Youths attribute much to program

May 24, 2011

Hales Corners - Jon Meyer learned long ago, as a graduate of the village's Explorer program in law enforcement, that a police officer's job isn't something you learn about from television shows.

"There's a lot more to being a police officer than what you see on an episode of 'Cops,'" said Meyer, now a special agent working in the narcotics division of the Wisconsin Department of Justice.

It's one of the meaningful lessons he gleaned from Explorers, a special pre-career program that helps high-school-age teens make life decisions.

Explorer posts focus on a wide range of additional career options, from the arts and communications to firefighting, medicine and the trades. Affiliated with the Boy Scouts, the programs exist throughout Southeastern Wisconsin and in other states.

Something to explore

Meyer, now 27, holds a bachelor's degree in criminology and law studies form Marquette University and a master's in criminal justice. He served as a patrol officer in Kenosha County before working for the state.

Meyer's story is one of success, part of which he attributes to Explorers.

He said he learned everything from routine investigation to the value of building contacts and camaraderie with fellow Explorers and mentors.

"It was a tremendous help in helping me develop my interest in law enforcement and looking at all the possibilities within that field," Meyer said. "The program emphasizes formal education in addition to the everyday techniques of the profession."

It may be a tossup as to who gets the most out of the village's 28-year-old Explorers program in law enforcement - the officer who has coordinated the program since 2002 or the youngsters and young adults who are developing their interest or putting the final touches on entering the community service field.

"Being an Explorer coordinator is very rewarding," says Police Sergeant Brent Kroll, who mentored Meyer as a high school student. "I get to see the development of young adults who are seeking a professional I am very passionate about. It's also rewarding to see the development of young adults and not only develop the technical skills needed to perform the duties of a police officer, but also the development of life skills needed to be successful in any profession."

His protégés - youngsters to young adults from 15 to 21 - are equally high on the law enforcement development initiative.

Real experience

Megan Rosa of West Allis met Kroll through area exploring programs.

"It has been great to meet people in the field as part of preparing for a career in law enforcement," Rosa said. "Because of what I have learned in Explorers as well as in college, I feel so prepared."

Preparation is the Explorer program's hallmark, Kroll said.

Explorers wear a uniform and receive monthly training and police techniques and procedures, he said. "They are allowed to ride along with police officers on duty and they volunteer for community events."

Classes usually have five to 10 participants, who have an opportunity to put the skills they learn to use in competition.

In fact, Nathan Hale High school freshman Billy Kunkel took a third-place award from a recent competition in crime scene investigation, a two-person team event held in Muskego.

"I've only been in the Explorers program for three or four months, but it's a lot of fun and I am learning a lot," said Kunkel

To find out more about the Hales Corners law enforcement program, contact Brent Kroll through the police department at (414) 529-6140.

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