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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
Jason did something he never did before—. he climbed a 150-foot extended ladder on a fire truck. Ashley operated a fire hose for the first time, using. all her might not to fall backwards from the strong pressure. Tyler enjoyed the thrill of being carried on an authentic stretcher used by paramedics for real patients at the hospital. And Laura is still talking about the excitement of watching the K9 police dogs perform a demonstration; she now dreams of becoming a police officer.
This is not a scene from a movie, but a typical outing of the Quakertown (Pennsylvania) First Responders Explorer Post #58, created in 2015 in conjunction with the Boy Scouts of America and Quakertown Community School District. The post is mentored by the Quakertown Borough Police Department, which has teamed up with St. Luke’s Hospital and the Quakertown Fire Department provide high school students with a taste of all three emergency disciplines during their formative years.
The Explorer program is designed to give students hands-on training in police and emergency response career fields. It connects students with mentors who can help them explore career paths, provides exciting activities which build students’ leadership skills, character development, social and professional networking, and community service experience.
The idea of combining the three departments into one Explorer post was proposed by Chief Scott McElree of the Quakertown Borough Police Department, an advocate of community policing. “Having the opportunity to interact with community youth through the Explorer program is an effective way to provide a positive mentoring relationship that has a favorable impact on their future. It is exciting and rewarding to be part of developing their character and influencing their lives.”
Officer Robert Lee of the Quakertown Borough Police Department is the advisor for the Explorer Post. Lee, currently the school resource officer at the Quakertown High School, has recruited students from ninth through twelfth grade to participate. The post meets twice a month in the evenings and rotates between the Quakertown Police Department, St. Luke’s Hospital, and the Quakertown Fire Department. The activities have included hands-on demonstrations, guest speakers, and field trips. For example, last year students toured the Bucks County 911 Communications Center and learned how calls were received and dispatched. Students also toured the Forensic Crime Lab at DeSales University.
The Explorer students designed their own patch, which was applied to polo shirts. The students wear these shirts as a uniform when attending events. The costs of the uniform shirts were funded by St. Luke’s hospital.
Combining all three departments allows students to explore the interdisciplinary functions of each department and how they work together on calls—for example, at the scene of a vehicle crash, officers are working together with emergency medical services and the fire departments. The students are given a glimpse of actual calls responders deal with and of how quickly decisions need to be made. It prepares students to deal with a variety of emergencies and apply critical thinking skills to each discipline.
Another positive aspect of the Explorer post is [that] the students learn to view the emergency advisors as human, everyday people. This helps dispel any stereotypes they have learned from television or other media, and lets them learn the difference between fact and fiction.
The Quakertown Community School District is a supporter and advocate for the Explorer Post. Dr. William Harner, the superintendent of Quakertown Community School District and a proud Eagle Scout, is a strong proponent of the program, which dovetails with his other attempts to build positive communication between law enforcement and the schools. “Talk about a win-win-win-win situation. The Explorer Post benefits our students, the district, all local first responders, and our entire community. It’s truly awesome.”
This year, Explorer post recruitment has increased, with meetings averaging about twenty-five students. Although most of these want to pursue a law enforcement career, others have interest in medical fields, firefighting, and the military. They are all now able to network face-to-face with emergency responders to discuss career endeavors. One of last year’s Explorer graduates, Darby Keller, is now a pre-law student in college. Keller explained that “the Explorer post opens so many doors to different fields that you might not have thought about and gives students a chance to make connections along the way. “
The Quakertown First Responders Explorers Post #58 is an inventive approach to combining all three emergency departments into one program for students to explore. This diversity of experience allows students to become better prepared for their future careers and educations.
Officer Robert Lee
Quakertown Borough Police Department
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