The life of a law enforcement officer is filled with danger and a myriad of obstacles, but for two Newton County teens, the possibility of a tough road ahead hasn't hindered their desire to be the best of the best. To that end, they both showed what they were made of when both were recently elected officers of the Law Enforcement Explorers Association of Georgia.
Blaine Smith and Phillip King Jr, both 18, are new to the Explorer program, a Web-based program that allows youth ages 14-21 that are interested in careers in law enforcement a chance to gain insight into what that path would entail.
"It offers experimental learning with lots of fun-filled, hands-on activities," said Covington Police Department Officer Allan Seebaran. "The program promotes growth and development of the youth."
A partner of Boys Scouts of America, Explorer Post 222 (which covers the Newton County area), is part of the Learning for Life (LFL) program that governs all Explorer posts in America. The organization offers a variety of programs that help prepare youth to "successfully handle complexities of a contemporary society and enhance self-confidence, motivation and self-esteem," according to Seebaran.
Things like officer ride-alongs and scholarships fall under the LFL program, as does the annual national competition. Along with LFL, the Law Enforcement Explorers Association of Georgia (LEEAG) offers competitions in Georgia for Explorer members.
This year, the Covington post sent both Smith and King to the event, which was held in Forsyth at the public training center. The teens were placed in different groups and both petitioned to become leaders of those groups. Due to their leadership abilities, they were both elected by their peers to serve as such.
"Instead of having [adult] advisors of each post organize these conferences, the teens get the opportunity to do it," said Seebaran.
The LEEAG is divided into divisions based on location and the Covington teens were in the central division, which consists of more than 25 different posts. Smith ran for vice president of the central Georgia division and was elected to the position by his peers.
The vice president is responsible for making decisions and planning for upcoming meetings and competitions, as well as discussing with other members ways in which they believe they can improve the program.
King was elected as sergeant of arms; there is only one in LEEAG. The position is responsible for all six divisions in the program, as well as getting involved in planning and decision making. The position is in charge of electing vice presidents and officials.
"I was very, very proud of them," said Seebaran. "I followed them along during the conference and observed how they interacted and networked with teens from the other posts. I was surprised and really pleased with how they conducted themselves. They were both leaders," he continued. "Both Blaine and Phillip had a little fan club following them around and the other teens were looking to them for direction. They conducted themselves as leaders and I couldn't be more proud of them."
Along with being leaders at the convention, both teens are leaders in the community as well. The Explorer program is community-based, and it gives those involved the chance to interact with the public -- something they will need to be able to do well should they continue in law enforcement. Post 222 is an auxiliary to the CPD, so they assist officers in a non-law enforcement capacity with things such as directing traffic and administrative work, as well as events such as the annual Fuzz Run, which is coming up in September.
"They are motivated and driven young guys and they would be an asset to our force," said Seebaran. "They are very ambitious. They both networked not only with other teens but with some of the instructors as well."
According to Seebaran, the group is almost always accepting new candidates, but he was quick to stress that Explorers is not for out-of-control teens. It's a program for those who have completed the eighth grade, are between 14 and 21-years-old and who keep an A or B grade average in school. Members cannot have a criminal history and must be upstanding members of their school and community.
For more information about the program, contact the CPD at (770) 786-7605.