The NYPD Explorers Program is a community service, career-oriented program designed to educate young men and women about law enforcement. Young explorers organize community projects, develop leadership skills, practice marching drills, and participate in real life law enforcement training. Under Police Officer Elizabeth Perez’s supervision, the 50 Precinct’s Explorer Program placed second in a national contest that involved teens responding to mock police situations.
Although the program is focused on exposure to police work, Officer Perez equally emphasizes the importance of fostering meaningful relationships with her explorers. In her eyes, the program is as much about personal development and open discussion as it is about law enforcement. In her own words:
“I don’t want to just teach exploring, I want to teach them life skills,” she said. “I want to talk about real-life situations, out in the streets, when you get on the bus, when you get on the train, how do you feel?”
Officer Perez often refers to the approximately 30 adolescents in her program as “her kids” because she cares for them as if they were her own family. Many of the explorers are at-risk youth who have grown up in poverty or without parents. For some, the Explorers Program gives them a sense of purpose and an opportunity to spend quality time with positive law enforcement role models.
Alex Vega, for example, is a 16-year-old student at DeWitt Clinton High School. A little more than a year ago he was failing most of his classes, but all of that changed when he decided to join the explorers.
“Officer Perez has been on top of my schoolwork, ever since I started I went from an F student to an A student,” he said. “I am now one of the top of my class because of her. She is always on top of it, and if I’m not, then, of course, she makes sure that I get on top of it.”
For Perez, working with the explorers doesn’t just mean training them for a future career in police work, it’s also about giving them the tools they need to confidently take on any of life’s many challenges.