Explorers program opens door for local youth

Photo by Sherri Kolade
Cpl. Jerry Blevins (third from left) leads a group of young people in the Police Explorers, a program in which participants undergo training in crime prevention . Members include (from left to right) Mahdy El-Mahmoud, Blaise Hebert, Erik Peterson, Casey Baker and Sgt. Mariam Hoballah.

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN–A bright red training handgun hung close to Erik Peterson’s body tucked in the right side of his holster as he searched a building in mid July- keeping an eye out for any trouble or disturbances.

If any layman saw the brawny gun-toting man on patrol they could have easily mistaken him for a police officer with years of experience.

But the 18-year-old Dearborn resident is not a police officer; he is a Dearborn Explorer, a member of a chartered program through the Learning for Life Organization, lead by Dearborn Police Cpl. Jerry Blevins. The national worksite-based program trains young men and women ages 14 to 21 about law enforcement and allows them to participate in sting operations in which undercover Explorers attempt to buy cigarettes from area establishments.

Peterson, who participated in the bi-annual National Law Enforcement Exploring Conference at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Colo., went through drills and exercises that gave him lessons about police officers’ responsibilities.

Peterson, who has been an Explorer for the past four years, aspires to become a state trooper one day, a job that is predictably unpredictable.

Peterson and about 40 others participate in the program because of their interest to learn more about the police or related fields, among other reasons, like joining because of inspiration from a friend, 16-year-old Dearborn resident Blaise Hebert said.

The program started in 1968 and has grown from nine Explorers to 42 Explorers total, with 35 actively participating. Meetings are held every Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. The program is open to anyone who does not have a police record and it is not exclusive to Dearborn residents.

Blevins said participating in the program builds the Explorers’ confidence.

Mariam Hoballah, 17, is all about working at the task at hand, especially as a recently-appointed sergeant in the program.

The Dearborn resident started in the program three years ago after hearing about it from a friend.

Hoballah is almost finished with the program and said she hopes to work as a police officer in Dearborn.

Blevins said the program teaches a lot of the participants about themselves and can help them relate better to the world outside the four walls of the Explorer program classroom.

Participants in the program pay a $5 monthly due to help with uniform costs and other program-related expenses. For more information on the program go to www.facebook.com/pages/Dearborn-Police-Explorers-Post-1177.