Growing Up & Giving Back

How Seniors are working to give back to their communities

How did you discover your job and what pushed you towards it? 

Bernt: I got an email from an administrator and they asked if I wanted to be part of the district’s High School Counselors for Outdoor School because they knew that I want to pursue a career in early development, and I am hoping to work with kindergarteners through 5th grade in the future. I thought it would be really interesting as high schools don’t really offer the opportunity to work with middle schoolers very often.

Cavazos-Ang: I work at the Salem Police Academy and help police officers train for real-life scenarios. I help them learn how to interact with “bad guys”, and civilians, and how to operate their line of work, in general. I discovered this job because my dad works with the APD and he found out about the job opening and knew that I was looking for a job so I applied and got the job. It’s a lot of fun and I love it so much. 

If you could think back to what you wanted to do when you were younger, and then think of what you’re doing now, do you think that it correlates? 

Bernt: 100%. I knew that I wanted to work with kids. I knew that I wanted to help people and I wanted to have fun doing it. I feel like all of those things applied to Outdoor School. 

Cavazos-Ang: When I was younger, I wanted to be a detective and I like this job because it’s fun because I get to play the role of the bad guy and the good guy so it gives me a really different perspective as to how people interact with police officers and how police officers should work. There have been times when a police officer made me uncomfortable, but I am able to tell them right then and there, “Hey, what are you doing? Don’t talk to me like that.” and that usually makes them back off. 

Do you think you will take a job in this field in the future? 

Bernt: I love working in environmental justice and environmental science as a hobby; but, for a career, I’d be more focused and fixated on the child psychology and hands-on classroom aspect of it.  

Cavazos-Ang: Probably not. I want to be a therapist specializing in therapy for first responders because I’m aware that there are not many resources for them. So, I think learning about what police officers deal with on a daily basis allows me to get a deeper look into their world. 

What was a memorable experience from this job? 

Bernt: There was a point where we were looking into binoculars and watching birds. Suddenly, there was this kid that said, “it looks like VR (virtual reality glasses)”. It made me realize that a lot of kids haven’t experienced nature in that capacity…things like touching dirt and rolling around in the grass is so foreign to these kids, they’re so removed from it… It really changed my worldview that it’s important to nurture them in nature, in any environment really, and to teach them. 

Cavazos-Ang: There was this one day where the scenario was High-Risk Stops and I was the passenger. There were six police officers at the time so we went through two rounds of the scenario and the actors were directed how they had to behave during the scenario. During the second round, I did as I was told to by getting out of the car and yelling and provoking the police officers. As soon as I did the police officers started yelling at me “Put your hands down” or something like that. Then I suddenly hear a “bang bang bang”. I ran back into the car and was wondering what happened. I hear the gunshots but I don’t see any. I didn’t think the police officers were firing so I was really confused. I saw the other roleplayer had a gun right on his lap and asked him if he was the one who was shooting. He said, “Yeah”. Later, I found out that the shots were blanks and that the instructors forgot to tell me that they were going to use the prop gun. It was really funny afterward, but my heart was racing at that moment. 

Has this job ever clashed with your academic or social life? 

Bernt: Yes, I was gone for five days and four nights with little to no cell service. I really missed my friends and my family. I was only able to call my mom once. I also work part-time so I was missing work, I was missing pay and my grades took a huge dip after [Outdoor School] but it was nothing that I wasn’t able to get back up. I’m recovering from that now but it scared me a little bit. 

Cavazos-Ang: No, thankfully, it’s definitely different at my job as I’m the youngest there. The second youngest is a senior in college but the average age is around 50 at my job. A majority of them are people who’ve retired and there are a lot of retired police officers who come back to teach the acting officers. What’s really cool is learning how to interact with adults compared to interacting with people my age so I’m learning how to be socially dynamic which has taught me a lot. 

Would you recommend this job to other people? 

Bernt: I feel like the business, itself, and the administration need to get their act together in regard to communication, service, and the campsite itself, but I’d definitely say more people should become a part of this in the coming years. 

Cavazos-Ang: If anyone is planning on becoming a police officer or working in the first-responder field, this is the perfect way to get some life experience and discover whether or not this is really a field you confidently want to go into. I think it would also be a good opportunity for anyone who is distrustful or suspicious of police officers to get to know them and their line of work better. Overall, it’s a really fun and eventful job, everyone is very kind, and you are able to learn a lot of new things.