Screaming sirens, chases, handcuffs and arrests, television depicts a law enforcement officer’s life to be action packed and for many youth that lifestyle may look exciting. The Winston- Salem Police Department has a law enforcement explorer program in place for young men and women ages 14-20 to explore the career choices in law enforcement that includes many hands-on, fun-filled activities that give the youth first hand view of law enforcement service entails. The W-S officers help the explorers become better citizens and community members through character development, physical fitness, good citizenship, and patriotism. Special Olympics is an integral part of the Explorers program because the W-S Police Department is annually one of the top agencies in the annual NC Law Enforcement Torch Run to raise funds and awareness for Special Olympics. Twenty-five young men and women are a part of Explorer Post 783 in Forsyth County.
Officer Claudia Morgan has been involved in Special Olympics for 19 years. She serves as the Winston- Salem Police Department Torch Run coordinator and also volunteers as Special Olympics Forsyth County cheerleading coach. She feels it is very important to show youth how important it is for a law enforcement officer to be involved and contribute to their community.
“There is so much more to being an officer than putting people in jail,” said Morgan, a 2012 inductee into the NC Law Enforcement Torch Run Hall of Fame. She makes it a point that fact across to the Explorers.
Each year, the Winston-Salem Police Department hosts several events to raise funds for Special Olympics, including a Polar Plunge, ice hockey game, and dunking booths. Explorers also volunteer at these events, and the Explorers who were most dedicated and involved were invited to help at this year’s Special Olympics North Carolina Summer Games, held June 1-3 in Raleigh and Cary.
Morgan hopes getting the students involved in Special Olympics and community service at a young age will inspire them to continue to be involved throughout their life no matter what career path they choose. David Rice, an Explorer who was selected to volunteer at the SONC Summer Games, believes his experiences have led to a positive impact on his own life.
“I’ve learned to be a better leader,” Rice said about the Explorers program. After a year’s work of fundraising for Special Olympics, Rice was proud to be a part of a Special Olympics competition. Seeing the athletes’ smiles while he presented them with their medals was especially humbling and rewarding.
The work by the Winston-Salem Police Department and their Law Enforcement Explorer Program can be best summed up by Morgan.
“We’re changing lives,” she says, “including our own.”
Thank you to the W-S Police Department officers and Explorers who volunteered during the 2012 SONC Summer Games !