Life As a Police Explorer


Stephanie Berrios

Freshman Rose Gardner and her chief pose for a celebratory photo after Gardner was promoted to the rank of Corporal.

By Shelby Brunson, Lake Brantley High School

Most high school students cannot truthfully say they have ridden in a police car, but most high school students are not freshman Rose Gardner. By the time Gardner turns 17, she will have not only ridden in the front of a police car, she also will have processed license plates, spoken over the police radio and gone on ride alongs. This is all apart of the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office Police Explorer Program, which Gardner works with every Thursday.

Founded in the 1960s, the Police Explorer Program promotes a career in law enforcement through the use of tactical training and real life interaction. In order to be eligible to become an Explorer or Cadet, the middle school equivalent to an Explorer, candidates must range from ages 11 to 21, have a minimum unweighted GPA of 3.2 and pass a background check. Throughout the program, Explorers learn how to take fingerprints, conduct crime scene investigations, complete traffic stops and even make arrests. But most importantly, the program instills vital leadership skills and attributes. 

“Personally I’ve grown so much as a person,” Gardner said. “I’m going out and doing things that I probably would not have done before. Being respectful is something that I have learned, it’s crazy. To respect not only the job that they do, but the people that they are and respect my friends and family. It’s giving me tons of leadership skills, being able to lead the people who are below me but also respecting them in a way that I can do my job fully.”

The Police Explorer Program is formatted through a ranking system that encompasses anyone from Cadet to Chief Explorer. Gardner was recently promoted to Corporal, which is a huge staple in the Explorer hierarchy. This ranking system is organized by the program’s advisors and requires a particular type of personality.

“Rose is a very outgoing, intelligent, and highly mature for her age,” Explorer Senior Advisor Keith Betham said. “A couple of weeks ago I asked Rose if there is anything she can’t do. She is a pleasure to have as an explorer.”  

When she is not learning new skills at the police academy, Gardner is actively involved in her church, the Journey Christian Church. She spends almost every Wednesday and Sunday with her church’s worship team, where they discuss the best way to improve their relationship with God.

“Rose’s personality is so joyful and Christ focused its amazing,” junior Caitlyn Green said. “She is always caring for others and meeting other people’s needs before hers. It fits so well because policemen are always looking after others and thinking of others before themselves, like Rose already does.”

While Gardner’s career path is fully cemented now, she did not always know what she wanted to do after graduation. This changed after a fortuitous trip to CVS.

“Honestly it was a very whimsical decisions,” Gardner said. “I knew I wanted to help in the world, I knew I wanted to make a difference. But I didn’t want to be like a doctor or a lawyer or anything like that and I’m a very active person. So I was thinking and I ran into a lady at CVS and she was like ‘Oh well, there’s this program’ and she told me about it. And I looked into it and went to my first meeting and fell in love with it. So I’ve just kind of gone with it.”

This story was originally published on The Brantley Banner on September 23, 2019.