At approximately 10 a.m. Saturday, the sound of ocean waves crashing against the rocks echoing through Camp Varnum in Narragansett, 40 uniformed teenagers stood at attention.
Suddenly, there were several military-like chants and responses, as the group of young men and women began a 100-yard march – in perfect step – up Camara Road and formed three different rows while standing at attention.
Old glory fluttered, yet, nothing – not even a few sprinkles of rain – were going to trouble the 250 people who sat in wooden chairs awaiting the 2013 graduation of those 40 youngster who had just spent a week at the Rhode Island Police Law Enforcement Explorers Training Academy.
In the middle of it all were six members of the Warwick Police Department-coordinated Explorers Post 327.
Those Explorers, who often put in 21-hour days during the seven-day camp that included physical training, classroom studies and lectures and much more, are: Cameron Conroy of Warwick Vets High School; Adrine Lill, Toll Gate; Pamela Rummelle, the Met School; Jennifer Mejia, Cranston East; Zachary Black, Cranston East; and Matthew Roy, Warwick Vets.
And when the brief military-like ceremony was complete, Warwick Explorer Jennifer Mejia went home with a highly impressive honor.
Mejia, 17, who carried the flag for Squad 1 when the 10-member group was honored for capturing top honors in the Training Academy’s annual Drill Competition, went home with one of only four individual awards that were presented Saturday.
The Cranston High School East student won the Academy’s top Physical Fitness Award among all females. Richie Murato of East Providence High won the male award while Gregory Gawlik of West Warwick captured the advisor’s award and Jack Tavares of East Providence was named the week’s valedictorian.
“It’s absolutely amazing what some of these girls can do,” said Chris Giardina, a special officer/advisor with the Johnston Police Department’s Explorers Post 405, when Mejia marched forward to accept her award from Training Academy Director Major Marc A. Boisvert (JPD) and Assistant Director Lt. Patrick J. McMahon of the Charlestown Police Department. “In fact, all the girls that were here in camp impressed everyone with their stamina and strength.”
“She walked away with that top honor. And to compete with 40 kids from other Posts, that’s amazing,” said Nelson Carreiro, an eight-year WPD veteran who heads the Department’s Explorer Program, about Mejia.
Mejia is one of three young women who excelled during the grueling week that included everything from testing the Explorers physical mettle to classroom instruction and all phases of police work.
The other two from Post 326 were Adrine Lill and Pamela Rummelle.
Post 327, which was founded back in the 1970s, is coordinated by the WPD and is an official Boy Scouts of America Narragansett Council troop. An Explorers Post consists of youngsters ages 14 to 20 who are interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement.
During the academic year, post 327 Explorers meet weekly and receive classroom training, ride-a-longs, and other types of hands-on police-related events.
“An Explorers Post also fosters a sense of responsibility and civic pride through which these youngsters will go out into the city and state and perform many services for the community,” said Carrier, who is assigned to the Community Police Division.
In June, Post 327 graduated 18 Explorers and last week sent their top six students to the annual Training Academy in Narragansett.
“We’ve made some significant changes in our operation,” Carrier said. “We’re hoping to have 30 students next year. We’re introducing new ideas in the law enforcement areas and lots of hands-on training.”
Carrier, who is proud that Explorers Post 327 racked up a potential high 65 community service hours, said, “A lot of our kids have attained countless hours in that area.”
One of Post 327’s goals for the upcoming year is, as Carreiro said, “to incorporate new ideas and try to keep it fun while at the same time helping our Explorers learn to become young men and women serving our communities.”
Among the many community service areas in which WPD Explorers serve, are toy drives during the holiday season, parades, hockey tournaments, road races, Easter egg hunts, local neighborhood assistance groups and neighborhood cleanups.
“We’re going to look into doing more community service in the winter months,” Carreiro explained. “We’ll start recruiting next month [August]. We’ll be at local libraries, the mall, Boys and Girls clubs and eventually into the high schools once they’re back in session.”
Those interested in the Explorers program don’t need to wait until August. Anyone interested should contact Carreiro at 468-4311.
“And who knows?” Carreiro said. “Post 327 may just have another top one or two award winners at the Training Academy next summer.”