Tomorrow’s Leaders are Exploring

Edina Explorers learn about law enforcement and life skills.
Members of the Edina/Eden Prairie Explorers Post show off their State Conference awards in April.

Every September, a group of teens heads to the South Metro Training Center in Edina to find out what it takes to become an Explorer. These teens and youth may be future law enforcement officers, business people, lawyers or soldiers, but for the time being, they’ll be Explorers.

“The goals of the program are to get teens familiar with law enforcement,” says officer David Boosalis, a former Explorers adviser. “[The program lets them] get hands-on experience, but at the same time helps build their life skills.”

The Explorers Post 925 is designed for young people in Edina and Eden Prairie ages 14 through 20 who are interested in learning about careers in law enforcement. Boosalis started as an associate adviser when he was an Eden Prairie officer in 2006. He later became an Edina police officer and rejoined Explorers in 2010 as an adviser, taking over the lead advising position in 2013. Officers Nicole Frederick, TJ Henderson, and Mike Sussman help lead the group, though both Boosalis and Henderson retired this year.

The program has been around since the 1980s, and while it was developed for those interested in law enforcement, it also helps build skills, and familiarize teens with police. “We give them a good experience with law enforcement,” Boosalis says. “Because a lot of times kids don’t have positive encounters with police officers.”

The September meeting is called the First-Nighter, where interested teens can come with their parents and learn about what the post does. They complete an information packet and background check, and the following week advisers begin interviews. Once a new set of Explorers joins the post, weekly meetings begin.

Those meetings vary from hands-on learning and demonstrations to speakers addressing topics such as burglaries in progress, hostage negotiations and domestic calls. For example, Boosalis says, “We would have someone come in and I might teach search and arrest,” an in-depth explanation of how an officer executes a search warrant and conducts a search. At the following meeting, teens act out a real scenario. “They have to look to see if the warrant’s been signed by a judge, if it’s not expired, you have to leave a copy. … Just like they would at a [police] academy.”

Classroom and real-world experience, like working security at local events, give participants a taste of a career in law enforcement. Participants who eventually attend a police academy are way ahead of the curve. “It helps them get jobs,” Boosalis says. And for some, it helps them realize, “maybe this isn’t for me.” Much like an internship, the program allows students to test out a career before making life decisions.

The process worked for recent Eden Prairie graduate Katie Kline. “I joined [Explorers] four years ago and I knew I had an interest in law enforcement,” she says. “I fell in love with the people, everything that we do. It really just solidified my career decision to become a police officer.” Her favorite parts of the program are basically every part of the program, including “doing security and traffic directing at runs, or even just [going to] competitions.” Competitions are held between posts, with a regional competition in Rochester each spring, and a national competition every other summer.

For Boosalis, having advised for so many years and being an Explorer as a teen, it will be hard to step aside, he says. “It’s a lot of fun to watch these kids grow.”

Interested in Joining?

This year’s First-Nighter will be held September 15 at 6:30 PM at the South Metro Training Center, 7525 Braemar Blvd. For more info, visit the website here.