Rangers in Training Program Teaches Kids about Law Enforcement, Conservation
Masaracchia-Roberts, Sue, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Sue Masaracchia-Roberts Daily Herald Correspondent
A Lake County Forest Preserves program is introducing teens and young adults to careers in law enforcement.
And the 7-year-old Ranger Cadets program is already paying dividends.
Take 24-year-old Mario Sankis. The Round Lake Beach native and former Marine is now a police officer in Washington, D.C.
Sankis got his start with the Ranger Cadets in Lake County.
"The program opened my eyes to law enforcement and conservation," Sankis said. "It's fun and you learn bundles of information and gives you an idea as to how it's going to be in the field."
The Ranger Cadet program is for kids 14 to 21 with interest in law enforcement or conservation. It is the brainchild of Fox Lake resident, Ino Saldivar, a former Libertyville "Officer Friendly."
"We do it all," Saldivar said. "It's all part of the forest preserve police department and involves the safety and security of visitors in the preserve, including dealing with nature and criminals."
Membership in the cadets has ranged from five to 15, and it seems to grow from word-of-mouth, Saldivar said. His aim is to add one or two cadets every fall or January to replace those who have exceeded the age limit, gone off to college or joined the military.
"The goal is to build leadership, experience wildlife, law enforcement and what the work world would be like," Saldivar said. "Any time you can have one young person grow up and follow what they want to do in life, like be a policeman, it's a success."
Teaching life skills
The cadet program is funded by donations from corporations and fund-raisers.
The money buys uniforms, flashlights, badges and other supplies. Although Saldivar has been successful in reclaiming uniforms when kids leave, it costs about $225 to outfit one cadet.
The money helps cadets both learn and make an impact through volunteering.
Some of the activities cadets have helped with include bike rodeos at schools, forest preserve parking details for events like Senior Day, Civil War Days, a canoe race and traffic control.
The program teaches practical skills such as CPR and search and rescue techniques. Cadets also learn life skills like problem solving and conflict resolution. …