HELENA, AL (WBRC) - For several law enforcement officers in our area, the dream of serving and protecting started as members of the Helena Police Explorers program.
The program, which is for youths between the ages of 14-21, has an impressive record of helping train officers.
Helena Police Captain, James Penhale, said five former Explorers are now officers in his department. Another four are members of the Calera Police Department. There are also two Explorer graduates who are now police officers in Montevallo.
Some of those officers serve as advisers to current students in the program.
"If there's anything you need, you can always call one of the officers and they will be there for you," said current Helena Police Explorer Spencer Hollon.
He and other members of the program meet on Monday nights, going through different situations that officers face everyday. That includes traffic stops, domestic violence situations, active shooter events, and hostage negotiation.
Hollon joined the program five years ago at age 14.
"It's helped through high school because I know this is what I want to do," said Hollon.
He is now in the Jefferson County Reserve Academy, training to be a law enforcement officer.
Justin Ward is another Explorer now in the Reserve Academy. He joined Helena Police Explorers two years ago after graduating from high school. Ward was inspired by his father who is a police officer.
"Of course, I see my father as a role model and to see him in this career really made me want to be part of that family of blue," explained Ward.
This week a golf tournament will raise money for the Explorers program. The Douglas W. Jones Memorial Golf Tournament is being held on Thursday at Bent Brook Golf Club in Bessemer. The cost is $100.00 per player. If you are interested in taking part, you can contact Captain Penhale at 205-663-6499 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Both Ward and Hollon plan to become advisers in the program after they become officers.
"The advisers have made a great impact on me, so, I want to do the same thing," said Hollon.
Ward says he is thankful for the experience.
"It really touches my heart how caring Helena Police Department is toward us explorers," said Ward.