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Police Explorer cadets earn $3k-plus
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Ripon Chamber of Commerce President Tamra Spade presents a check for parking duty for some $3,000 to Ripon Explorer Sergeant Kaela Gill in support of her Ripon Police Explorer program. - photo by GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

It was a fundraiser experience this week for Ripon High senior Kaela Gill, who doubles as a  sergeant for the student Police Explorer Program, when she was presented a $3,000 check for her cadets who assisted with  parking cars at the Mistlin Park Fourth of July celebration. 
More than a dozen cadets gathered behind her at the chamber of commerce office Wednesday when she received the check from Chamber President Tamra Spade.  As a proud mentor for the group, Sgt. Mario Isit watched from the sidelines.
Sgt. Gill is planning to travel to Hawaii for her freshman year in 2017 — living with relatives — while she majors in Criminal Justice in a college there, preparing for a career in law enforcement.  There are 23 Ripon students now enrolled in the program between 14 and 20 years old.
“We work city-wide events like the Almond Blossom Festival, 4th of July, National Night Out, Main Street Day, Mistlin Movie in the Park and the Menlo Park/Ripon Police Emergency Vehicle Show. In addition,  we work out-of-town assignments like the Gallo Winery Family Picnic, the UOP Men’s Basketball Game, the Escalon Park Fete,” Gill said.
The student sergeant further noted that the events allow cadets to interact with members of the community as they can learn more about the Explorers and the regular officers.
“Our Explorers also participate in a three-day annual Central Valley competitions contrasting with other statewide police agencies from the Highway Patrol to the Border Patrol near San Diego.  The smaller competitions are held between Modesto, Manteca and and Tracy police departments on a continuing basis with Ripon High School having been the site of several scenarios.” Gill said.
The Explorers coming the farthest to Ripon proved their skills at an RHS competition several years ago.
The 16 life scenarios range from a minor traffic stop to a domestic dispute to an active shooter, Sgt. Gill explained. The Explorers are equipped with a duty belt that holds a radio, handcuffs, and a training gun molded out of plastic.
Gill also noted that the Ripon Explorers have earned 32 awards in their competitions during the past couple of years.  Their top first place awards included active shooter, school bus assault, crime scene investigation, domestic disturbance, drill, DUI, hostage negotiations, hostage rescue and vehicle search.
“What I really enjoy about this program and in becoming an Explorer Sergeant is coming to a realization that they are my second family. We all communicate and work as a team wherever we go and that’s what it is all about in this type of field. Being able to connect with this beautiful town and its people is truly an amazing experience for me,” she said.
Gill said she recognizes other cadets as her brothers and sisters and is very proud of their accomplishments both at the police department and meeting their educational challenges in high school. 
“By learning the basics of policing like communication skills, patience, police codes, handcuffing and a multitude more I have the ability to naturally inexact with people and have a head start of my career in law enforcement,” she said. 
Another Explorer, Marlene Bautista, said she first became interested in the program when she was 13, wanting to know just what cops do during their shifts. She would eventually like to become a probation officers thanking Ripon officers for pushing them toward professionalism.
She said that whether a cadet won a medal or not in competition they all went home knowing new things.  Ripon has so many fun events with the people coming out for them — a great experience.
Kerry Villigomez said she joined the program to get experience and see how law enforcement works so that someday she can become a member of a law enforcement agency.
“The things that I have learned in the program I apply every day in my life.  For example, being aware of my surroundings, being respectful and helping people who need assistance,” she said.   Kerry received first place awards in active shooter and drill scenarios. 
Nikki Christel said she had attended the Junior Police Academies for four years and wanted to see what the Explorer Program was all about. She said she felt it would probably be a good opportunity to later enter law enforcement as a career. 
“Also, my cousin is a police officer and became one doing the Explorer Program. By applying everything I have learned in the program I will put towards becoming a police officer after I graduate from high school.  I make a difference by being in this program from serving my community, and making city vents less complicated and safe,” Christel added.
In her first competition this year she was in three scenarios:  accident investigations, officer down and hostage rescue, she noted.
Alex Briceno said getting taught by actual cops has been awesome, thinking it would be more classroom education — but it was real hands on, he said.  After graduating from high school he said he plans on enlisting in the U.S. Army and hopes to become a member of the military police.
Kevan Baird has been an Explorer since last November. He said he enjoys getting to meet the residents of Ripon when he was on a ride-along with one of the officers and give back to the community.
“The way I will apply what I have learned in the program to my future in becoming a law enforcement officer and implementing the respect, maturity and discipline to represent myself as a mannered person,” Baird said.