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P'dale Explorers promote new leaders
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"Anything worth doing is worth doing well." Everyone has had a parent or relative tell them that, often repeatedly.
Then as adults, people discover the wisdom in the words and proceed to hammer them into their own children and grandchildren.

For the Porterdale Explorers post, a group of 16 teenagers finishing its first year in existence, that mantra became its motto.

"It taught me how to be a good leader," said Christopher Little, who was promoted to captain Tuesday evening. "In this group, you have to be dependable and responsible for what you do."

Little, 17, said he joined the Explorers post when it was founded here in March because he had been thinking about a career in the military and the police. "In the military, if you don't have that (responsibility and dependability), you might as well not sign up," he said.

The Explorers focus on leadership skills and community service, said Porterdale Police Sgt. Jason Cripps, who supervises the post. Chief Geoff Jacobs approached him about a year ago and asked him to form and manage the post.

Emily Watkins, 15, said joining the Explorers in August helped turn her away from experimenting with drugs. "I came from a bad situation," she said. "The group has helped me out a lot, being involved with a great big family and with Sgt. Cripps being like a second father and looking out for me. That helped me adapt and overcome, as he says."

Her colleagues awarded her Explorer of the Year at an awards ceremony and dinner at Grace Baptist Church Tuesday.

Dylan Bryant, 16, a lieutenant and second in command of the post under Little, said he had wanted to join an Explorers post since he heard about the organization while living in Conyers.

Bryant said he also wanted to pursue a career in the police force, and the Explorers helped him toward that goal.

Onreona Lunsford, 15, joined in June also with an eye toward investigation and law enforcement. "When I watch it on TV and see other people do it, it looks interesting," she said.

Melanie Lunsford, Onreona's mother, said the Explorers helped her daughter combat shyness. "She had a trust issue and wouldn't open up to people," Melanie Lunsford said. "She's done better with that."

The Explorers have been involved in several community service projects in the last nine months, including painting the police station, erecting a donated flagpole, helping a Community Assistance Relief Effort community food giveaway and making crosses and standing at attention during this year's Sept. 11 observance.

"That was probably the most meaningful event for them," Cripps said.

The members raised all the funding for the group themselves, money that pays for their uniforms and activities, he said.

Now that the post is nearing its first anniversary, Cripps said he wanted to get parents more involved. "Now I'm asking parents to step up and they have," he said. "They hit it out of the park."

Jamie Hardegree, Watins' mother, said the program instills important values in the members. "There's an accountability here that's awesome," she said.

According to the national Law Enforcement Exploring website, the organization "provides educational training programs for young adults on the purposes, mission and objectives of law enforcement" and emphasizes career orientation, leadership and community service.