Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux was able to fulfill one more of his campaign promises with the introduction of the first Pathways Scholarship recipients. During his campaign, Boudreaux along Kim Oviatt, president of the Sence Foundation, discussed creating a scholarship program to keep youth in the county who want to pursue a career in law enforcement.
Oviatt brought the idea to the Sence Foundation Board and it was a unanimous decision to fund the scholarship. On January 8, Boudreaux was proud to announce the first recipients of the Pathways Scholarship.
The purpose of Pathways is to put local youth who are interested in a career in law enforcement back in their communities. The program pays their tuition for the police academy after graduation from a two-or four-year college. Pathways scholarship recipients are then guaranteed a deputy position with the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department upon graduation from the academy.
The Sence Foundation, which supports education and medical research, fully funds the Pathways Program.
“We have a niche for law enforcement and particularly for the Tulare County Sheriff’s Office,” Oviatt said. “The Sheriff’s Pathways Program was a perfect fit.”
Since 1985, the Foundation has given more than $10 million to Tulare County charities.
Young adults ages 17-20, who volunteer with the Sheriff’s Explorer Program, are eligible to apply for the scholarship. Boudreaux realized, while serving as undersheriff, that there is no follow-up to the Explorer Program to grab ahold of youth who excel in academics and want a career in law enforcement. Boudreaux wanted a vehicle in which to mentor the Explorers through college and then provide them the means to attend the academy.
The sheriff’s department also has a Police Activities League, or PAL program. PAL is an after-school crime prevention program that helps facilitate positive relationships between police officers and youth. The teenage members of the Explorers complete many community service hours running or helping PAL with its activities. PAL will be transitioning to a new name in the coming months to Sheriff’s Junior Explorers.
As part of the application process for the scholarship, each candidate had to write an essay and complete an interview, as well as participate in the Explorer Program.The five Sheriff’s Pathways Program scholarship recipients were:
- Joseph Banda, a Porterville College student majoring in Administrative Justice
- Samantha Elias, a senior at Magnet Academy in Porterville
- Hector Negrete, a student at San Joaquin Valley College
- Jasmine Orozco, a senior at Fresno State University
- Daniel Luna, a student at Reedley College
“What you see before you, is the future of the sheriff’s department,” Sheriff Boudreaux said. “I’m looking forward to pinning those badges on them,” he said. “[They] are truly an investment.”
Banda, Negrete, and Luna all plan on getting their associate degree then going straight to the police academy. Elias and Orozco plan on getting their four-year degree before joining the academy. Orozco will be done with her four-year degree at Fresno State this spring. Having completed a four-year degree leads to faster promotions within the department which could make one of these two women Tulare County’s first female Sheriff.
All of the Pathways recipients continue to do community service and go on ride-alongs. Many of the ride-alongs are routine calls, but some are drug-related or domestic abuse situations where the Explorers have been asked to translate from Spanish.
One of the more dramatic ride-alongs that Elias, the youngest of the group, was on involved a fatal traffic accident. The sheriff deputy’s car stopped at the scene of the accident where a woman was wedged between two cars. She was about to be declared deceased when she started talking. The woman ultimately survived.
Elias and Orozco had similar reasons for wanting to pursue a career in law enforcement. Coming from rough neighborhoods rife with drugs and gangs, both had seen the other side of the law. They also saw, at their high schools, schoolmates in their Explorer uniforms going on excursions with the sheriff’s department. One day when she was 15-years old, Orozco asked what the Explorers were doing and one of the girls encouraged her to come along.
She joined the Explorers and has never looked back.