Serving Our Society

CHS students learn vital skills through public service programs, appreciate their significance

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Despite not wanting to pursue a public-service career, specifically one of a police officer, sophomore Elizabeth “Liz” Brazda, who participated in the Police Explorers program, said she found it to be rewarding in more ways than she anticipated. 

“Originally I did (the Police Explorers program) because my dad’s girlfriend told me it’d be an amazing experience. However, I continued to do it for a second year primarily because it taught me skills you could never get anywhere else, such as communication and independence, as well as (exposing me to) perspectives in different emergency scenarios,” Brazda said. “It was nice to experience it, but I don’t necessarily feel the need to go into a career (related to public service).”

Senior Kelsey McShay said she found a similar program rewarding in much the same way.

“I did a it for acting purposes. (When as a firefighter in an simulation of a real-life emergency, I learned) the basic safety measures, but I found that witnessing and understanding everything in person was encouraging and made me appreciate their work even more.”

While Brazda and McShay both said they enjoyed the program, their desire not to pursue a public service career is a part of a growing trend among U.S. citizens. In fact, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, although the U.S. population has risen from 267 million in 1997 to 323 million in 2016, the number of full-time sworn officers per 1,000 U.S. residents dropped from 2.42 to 2.17 officers in 2016.

Furthermore, Indiana ranks as one of the lowest states in those employed in the public service sector. According to a study conducted by the Bureau of Justice statistics in 2017, only 13.7% of the state’s workforce is in public service jobs, as a result of a 2.1% decrease since 2007.

Submitted Photo
Sophomore Elizabeth Brazda (third from the left) stands with other members of the Police Explorers program and police officers D.J. Schoeff, Shane VanNatter, and Chief James Barlow.

According to Student Resource Officer Scott Moore, the lack of participation is largely due to recent events in the United States related to police officers. 

He said, “Many people right now don’t wish to serve the country, but I think there’s a misunderstanding. You don’t have to specialize in combat or serve in the military to serve the country. There are small ways to give back, even if you don’t want to pursue a public service career, and the effects are rewarding.” 

Moore said he suggests volunteering at community events or donating to those less fortunate at a local church or pantry.

For her part, even though Brazda said she doesn’t want to be a police officer, she recommends others to participate in programs like the Police Explorers. She said it’s important to be exposed on a personal level to public service jobs and the work that people in public service careers do.

“I think doing something like a program that serves the public is helpful whether or not you wish to pursue a career in (that field),” she said. “In the end, those jobs are tough and aren’t for everyone, but that just makes me appreciate those who serve even more,” she said.

As a result of their experience in the programs, both Brazda and McShay said they urge others to showcase their appreciation for those who specialize or work  in public service.

“We rely on these people to stay safe and so it’s important to understand the amount of effort and preparation they put in,” McShay said. “By witnessing (the work they do), the intensity sends chills and you can’t help but appreciate the service they do for us. It seems like it doesn’t have that much of a connection to our everyday lives, but the reason why we’re able to remain safe is because of these brave people.”

This urge for appreciation is not a personal or biased belief, as these careers are known to receive the least amount of recognition. According to a poll conducted in 2019 in advance for UN’s Public Service Day, 20% of public service workers say they’ve never received a thank you, and care workers followed by police and teachers were named as the least appreciated in their sector. 

“These people work for us every day tirelessly,” Brazda said. “They risk their lives and sacrifice so much of their time in order to let us live comfortably. Don’t let this hard work go to waste. Make the effort to at least show your appreciation for them.”