Eight high school seniors recently graduated from the Irvine Police Department’s Explorer program, where they learned what it takes to keep Irvine the safest city in America.
Established in 1974, the volunteer program has given high school students in Irvine the opportunity to work alongside police officers.
“It’s one of those experiences that I will never forget,” said 18-year-old Ben Tran, who participated in the Explorer program throughout high school. “It’s helped me develop as a person.”
Explorers typically donate 300 to 600 hours of their time each year, assisting Irvine officers with traffic control, community events and DUI checkpoints. They gain valuable life experiences while helping the city save money that can be used for other services.
They also go on monthly patrol ride-alongs and participate in team-building activities like movie nights, barbecues and Knott’s Berry Farm trips.
The program is by no means easy. Within a year of joining the program, Explorers must complete a five-day training academy that includes military-style drills and lectures on topics like criminal law, bomb squad, and SWAT. Some of their assigned tasks aren’t all that exciting, like watching barricades.
“But they always do it with enthusiasm and excitement, and there’s nothing we can’t ask our kids to do,” said Traffic Investigator Kyle Oldoerp, who coordinates Irvine’s Explorer program.
“These are all good kids who have passed background and are doing well in school. They are the best of the best in our community.”
Oldoerp, once an Explorer himself, said the program’s key goal is to encourage its participants to seek a career in law enforcement.
But even if Explorers don’t go into law enforcement, they still develop lifelong skills, such as self-confidence and responsibility, Oldoerp said.
“It’s given me valuable skills,and they’ll be like a second family that I always know I can count on,” Tran said.
In addition, Oldoerp said he hopes Explorers become advocates of law enforcement after witnessing how the police operate.
“One of the things that Irvine does best is live up to our slogan, ‘in partnership with the community,’” he said. “It isn’t something we just say. We do it.”