Scholarships help young Utahns become police officers
Samantha Willden wants a career in law enforcement, and under the Unified Police Department’s youth cadet program, the 18-year-old already has begun her training.
And now, thanks to the Salt Lake Honorary Colonels civic group, she also has a $2,000 scholarship to help pay for college.
"I’m hoping to be a police officer, a homicide detective," said Willden said, adding that she plans to major in criminal justice and minor in psychology.
Willden is one of seven cadets who received a scholarship Wednesday from the Honorary Colonels. Four were awarded $2,000 for tuition and three got $5,000 to cover the cost of training with the state’s Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) program, a requirement for all police recruits in Utah.
2014 recipients of Honorary Colonels scholarships
McQuade Allen, 20
Blake Dailami, 19
Beau Hunter, 20
Megan Kelsch, 19
Jennifher Rodriguez, 19
Juan Rodriguez, 20
Samantha Willden, 18
The recipients all are participants in the cadet program, which was started in 2011 to mentor 16- to 21-year-olds. The cadets get training in law enforcement practices and assist in managing public events such as parades and Night Out Against Crime events for UPD, which is a branch of the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office.
The scholarships were funded by the Honorary Colonels, a group made up of community members that has provided support to the sheriff’s office for three decades. This is the second year scholarships have been awarded; six were given out last year.
Jackie Biskupski, an administrator in the sheriff’s office, said the cadet program provides rigorous training that helps participants grow as individuals and improve their communication skills, among other benefits. The original plan was to award one scholarship a year, but the applicants were so outstanding the number was increased, she said.
Sheriff Jim Winder, who is part of the scholarship selection process, praised the cadets and those who dedicate their time to mentor them. He pointed out that the scholarships are awarded based on merit.
"This is not an easy thing to do," Winder said of the program.
He added the training helps the participants no matter where their career path takes them. Winder said some will become peace officers, while some will contribute to the community in other ways — perhaps as a member of the Honorary Colonels or another organization.
Beau Hunter and McQuade Allen, both 20, are among the cadets who plan to go into law enforcement. Allen is using his scholarship money toward an accounting degree, with the goal of getting a position with a federal agency.
Hunter is following in the footsteps of his mother and father, who are both UPD officers, and is starting POST training soon. He has wanted to go into law enforcement since he was a young boy.
"I want to serve the community," Hunter said. "I want to be a mentor and help troubled kids."