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Program prepping future first responders in Port Arthur

Who knows?

There may be some future first responders in the city of Port Arthur thanks to an Explorer program recently established.

The Port Arthur City Council approved the program in partnership with the Port Arthur Independent School District at their regular meeting on Tuesday night.

Charlotte Moses, Place 7 councilwoman, said she returned from a National League of Cities meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and heard about the program in which students could prepare for public service careers.

She thought, why can’t Port Arthur students come out of high school with some experience in public safety and then get paid a full salary after they land a fulltime job.

Patrick Melvin, Port Arthur police chief, said the department is moving forward with the program.

The Explorers are actually part of the Boy Scouts of America. The program gives insights into police, fire and EMS careers. It is opened to boys and girls.

Melvin added that the program offer the youth community leadership skills opportunities and a chance to engage with public safety professionals.

Locally, the Vidor Police Department has a chapter and the PAPD is reaching out to them to develop the program.

An 18 year old can become a firefighter, a 21 year old a police officer and an 18 year old can become a dispatcher.

Melvin said PAISD has been very supportive of the program. In fact, they conducted a survey of interest for ninth-graders and 11th-graders and found out more than 200 students are interested in participating.

Moses said this demonstrates many PAISD students aren’t afraid of police officers and they’re interested in learning more about law enforcement.

Melvin said even if they get a fraction of that number it would be a success.

The PAPD is looking to start the program in the fall if everything goes correctly.

There was actually an Explorer program in Port Arthur years ago.

Osman Swati, District 6 councilman, said investing in the youth will bring a prosperous future.

Tiffany Hamilton, District 2 councilwoman, said she was very excited, but they will need money for a successful program.

Deputy Chief Willie Havens, of the Port Arthur Fire Department, said they are exploring what the costs will be for the program and where those funds will come from.

Explorer youth may also participate in fundraising activities.

Mary Ann Reid with Acadian Ambulance Service, said the company has “an incredible commitment to the youth.”

She said students can walk out of high school into the National EMS Academy and become future EMTs. They can stay in the area, have a good job and love their job.

She said Acadian has their own Explorers chapters in Louisiana and Port Arthur will consult with them.

“This offers them another avenue,” Moses said. “Not everyone is interested in working in a refinery.”

In other police business, the council approved establishing the police chief advisory committee.

“We’re looking for transparency with the community,” Melvin said. “The Port Arthur Police Department wants to be proactive and form relationships with the community.”

He added that committee members must serve a two-year assignment, be open minded, cooperative and have a professional attitude. The committee will meet once a month.

Mayor Derrick Freeman told Melvin to think of the city’s diversity when forming the committee since 50 percent of the population is Hispanic.

David Ball: 409-721-2427