Group busy exploring police work

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 22, 2000

LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / January 22, 2000

HAHNVILLE – Once, she considered herself an indifferent high school student. Now, Destiny Dufrene is filled with commitment, ambition, driveand a desire to improve not only her own life but help others as well.

The 19-year-old found her life turned around two years ago by Explorer Post 15, established in November 1997 by the St. Charles Sheriff’s Office,in cooperation with the Boy Scouts of America.

Explorers take young people, male and female, ages 14-21, who maintain a 2.5 grade point average and provide them with goals, skills, enthusiasmand positive role models, turning out better young citizens.

Dufrene, daughter of Wayne and Rita Dufrene of Bayou Gauche, has become something of a “poster girl” of Explorers. Indeed, she is on the currentUnited Way of St. Charles poster and promotional video as an example oflives improved through United Way funding.

Since she has been a member she’s even earned a Young American Award, along with Gerald LaBorde, for her example to her peers.

Explorer Post 15 is under the direct supervision of Cpl. Burley McCarterand Deputy Daniel Moran.

McCarter, a DARE instructor as well, works with the Explorers in their training, community service projects and many other activities. And,because it’s the sheriff’s department sponsoring it, this post is getting hands-on training in law enforcement.

“The best way I can describe it when people ask me is an ROTC program for law enforcement,” McCarter said.

The area Boy Scout council did a survey at Destrehan and Hahnville high schools, seeking possible interest among the students. An initial list wasnarrowed down, using such criteria as good grades, student leadership and responsibility.

From that point, the Explorer post has taken a high profile in the St.

Charles Parish community. At local fairs and festivals the uniformedmembers can often be found directing traffic. They march in local Carnivalparades and once even assisted in searching for a murder weapon near a crime scene.

One of their high-profile projects was painting house numbers on the houses of elderly residents to make sure emergency crews can reach them promptly. They’ve delivered toys to Children’s Hospital in New Orleans andconducted a seat-belt program.

A few of the most trustworthy members even went undercover to make alcohol and tobacco purchases from area merchants in a sting operation.

“They’ve proven their keep,” Moran commented.

Twenty-seven members representing both sides of the river swell its ranks, and their meetings are usually held on the second Tuesday of each month at the Fraternal Order of Police hall in Destrehan.

The Explorers have also participated in a shortened version of the same police academy new deputies attend, with instruction in physical fitness, self-defense, general law and ethics.

“We learn to work as a team and learn how commands go down,” Dufrene added.

Two former members have gone on to the military, one of these, Jermain Fox of Destrehan, as a military policeman. “He’s our shining star,” Moransaid.

Interest in the program is building in the high schools and even in lower grades. Among the children of sheriff’s department employees, demandwas so great for participation in the program that a “junior division” was instituted.

Jack Gilboy, 13, son of Bill and Sandy Gilboy of Luling, is an example of the “junior Explorers” who participates side-by-side in many programs of their older role models.

“We pretty much do the same thing that they do,” Gilboy said.

McCarter admits he wasn’t too sure about the potentials of the Explorer program and added he was “drafted” to assume command. Now, though, “Ireally do enjoy it,” and he said it’s exciting for him to see young lives transformed for the better.

“It’s one of the rewarding parts of this job,” McCarter said, smiling.

Looking ahead, Dufrene is starting college in business management. Shealso works for Nabisco in customer service and may sign up as a reserve deputy when she’s old enough.

Gilboy, when asked about his future plans, pointed out McCarter and Moran and replied, “I want to be one of these guys.”

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