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Teens see how police department works
Manteca Police Departments Nick Obligacion, left, tells about the Challenge Coin he just handed out to the Manteca Chamber of Commerces Junior Ambassadors during their tour of the police department. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Cooper Ferris went on Thursday’s tour of the Manteca Police Department not knowing what to expect.

As a member of the Manteca Chamber of Commerce’s Junior Ambassador Leadership Program, Ferris – a student at San Joaquin County’s One Ambition program – figured that he’d learn a little bit about the facility and some of the things that officers do during their day.

He didn’t know he’d end up walking away thinking about becoming an explorer.

“Some of this made me think ‘Hey – I want to do that,’” Ferris said while working his way through the department’s labyrinth-like structure. “It’s cool to get to see things like this from our point of view – we get to look at things that we wouldn’t normally see, and that’s really what makes this a lot of fun.

“After doing the ropes course last time and things like this, I think I’m starting to learn some leadership skills. It makes me want to venture off and see what kind of careers are out there in law enforcement – and jobs that involve leadership skills.”

Ferris was especially enamored with the “challenge coins” that Manteca Police Lieutenant Nick Obligacion handed out to each of the students from the “Avoid the 10” drunk driving crack-down effort. It is a joint task force between the 10 law enforcement agencies in San Joaquin County.

With the badges of each of the 10 agencies on the back of the coin and the rest of it ornately decorated, Ferris stared at it closely before tucking it safely away in his pocket – exactly where Obligacion hopes where he and the rest of the students who visited the department Thursday keep them on a regular basis.

He threw down the challenge that if anyone ever sees him in or out of uniform around town and they show him their coin and he’s unable to produce both his motorcycle officer coin and his SWAT coin he has to buy them a beverage of their choice – more than likely something off the Starbucks menu.

“It gives them a connection to the police department, and if they carry that coin with them and they’re thinking that maybe they’re going to do something that they shouldn’t and they reach in their pocket and see that and it stops them – then mission accomplished,” he said. “Getting to work with and talk with these kids shows them that as officers we’re approachable and that’s something that’s important.”

Debby Moorhead – the Manteca Chamber of Commerce CEO – sees scenarios like the one that may draw Ferris into the world of law enforcement as one of the biggest benefits of the Junior Ambassadors.

“I think that it lets them know that there are opportunities out there for them in careers like police and fire protection that they didn’t know were there before,” Moorhead said. “Through this program we’re trying to allow them to explore different areas and show them what’s out there and what each of them is capable of achieving.”