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South Tucson Police Department youth "Explorer Program" looking for recruits

Building a career path in law enforcement for teens and young adults ages 14-21
South Tucson Explorer Program
Posted at 5:30 AM, Jun 01, 2024

SOUTH TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The South Tucson Police Department is looking for recruits ages 14-21 to join the Explorer Program. The program gives youth and young adults hands-on experience serving as support for South Tucson's officers.

The program has been serving Southside and South Tucson youth for almost 50 years. Carlos Valdez went through the Explorer Program in the 1970's, and is now the Senior Advisor.

“This program is here for kids on the Southside of Tucson who aren’t historically looking at law enforcement as a potential career. So we want to reach those young adults and let them know that you can come down and be a member here,” said Valdez.

The program immerses them in the day-to-day experience, teaching them morals, values, discipline, and good ethics. Valdez added while it gives them experience in this line of work, it really prepares them for any career they choose.

“Everything that a police officer does on a daily basis, they'll get an abbreviated training in that,” he said.

There are currently three members of the program: Saul Rodarte, David Bravo, and Izeyah Shonk. The program saw a decline in enrollment during the pandemic, and now they're trying to rebuild the team. Bravo said it helped break him out of his shell.

“I was very quiet at first, but once I felt comfortable, it kind of felt like hanging out with my brothers, actually,” said Explorer David Bravo.

For Explorer Saul Rodarte, it's helped him follow his dream of committing to this career path.

“Since I was a little kid, I've always wanted to become a police officer,” he said.

He and Izeyah Shonk received an award for demonstrating what they've learned in real-life situations. At the 2023 Fourth Avenue Street Fair, a woman was in need of assistance due to a health condition. The two young men knew exactly what to do.

"I always knew it was my calling to help people. And wearing this uniform gives me more responsibility to do that," said Shonk.

Shonk's father, Kevin Shonk, is currently working for the South Tucson Police Department. He was in the Explorer Program in the 1980's, and is a big reason why Izeyah Shonk chose this career path.

“I feel honored to do this, because it's all I've known. It's what I grew up around, I just love community based jobs,” said Shonk.

The Explorer Program meets once a week on Sundays at the South Tucson Police Department. Anyone interested in joining will have to go through a background check. They are expected to attend a few meetings before undergoing the enrollment process.

The program does have fees, but no one will be turned away if they can't pay for the cost. Call Senior Advisor Carlos Valdez at 520-490-9617 for more information, or follow the South Tucson Explorers on Facebook.

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Reyna Preciado is a reporter for KGUN 9, she joined the KGUN 9 team in July of 2022 after graduating Arizona State University. Share your story ideas with Reyna by emailing reyna.preciado@kgun9.com or by connecting on Instagram, or Twitter.