Between school plays and Advanced Placement and honors classes, Sierra Vista High School senior Katherine Benzine finds time to help the Las Vegas community become a little bit safer.
Despite her busy school schedule, Benzine dedicates eight hours each week to a Metropolitan Police Department volunteer program, the Explorers. It’s a program for youths ages 16 to 21 that provides hands-on experience within the police department.
“You go to meetings twice every week and you usually work two events per week,” Benzine said. “You also get to participate in patrol ride-alongs.”
The events, she said, are normally with Metro.
“We are trained to direct traffic, (to be) security at events and role players for the real officers when they need it,” she said.
This is Benzine’s first year in the program.
“I heard about it through my cousin and I thought it would be a good experience,” she said. “I also thought it would open up doors for career options.”
Before entering the program, Benzine didn’t plan a career directly related to law enforcement.
“Originally, I wanted to be a prosecuting lawyer and wanted the experience through this program,” she said.
However, her career choice has shifted.
“After the experience with hands-on stuff,” she said, “I realized I wanted to be a cop or a detective.”
Although Benzine is a beginner in the program, her adviser, Chad Baker, saw much potential in her.
“I could see her leadership skills right off the bat,” he said. “Benzine is such a natural leader by the way she carries herself.”
Designated police officers participate in the program.
“We have police officer advisers who volunteer their time,” Benzine said. “My head adviser is a role model to myself and the rest of the Explorer program. Officer Baker does a wonderful job at preparing us not only in the law enforcement career, but also in growing up and facing reality.”
The Metro Explorers program has eight posts. Benzine reports to the Convention Center and Downtown Area Command.
“She was recently promoted to lieutenant at my post, which has added extra responsibilities to her day by making sure things are done right and that our department values are carried out,” Baker said.
She also reports to formal meetings on Wednesdays after school and on Sunday mornings.
Benzine said her ongoing experience as an explorer has not only improved her skills on the streets and in the patrol cars but also in life outside the program.
“Ever since joining, I’ve learned a vast amount of discipline and responsibility,” she said. “It’s made me think twice about all my actions, as well as the consequences that are bound to follow. Now even outside of the program I carry myself with pride and dignity.”