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Scouts in Halloween gear learn community service

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

Superman poured coffee, and a vampire, a little blood still dabbed on her middle school chin, offered it to the people in line.

"Coffee?" she said. "Coffee? Anyone want hot coffee?"

It was sort of a reverse trick-or-treat event Thursday, as the Clayton County Explorers Post #927 gave out candy and coffee to the voters outside the historic courthouse.

Some of the 21 high school and middle school students in the program, a division of Boy Scouts, for students interested in a career in law enforcement, turned out in costumes. Some just wore their regular clothes.

One, with a sense of humor, wore his regular clothes with a sign saying "Nudist On Strike."

"I ain't really a nudist," he said.

"What's this, 'ain't'?" said Lt. Tina Daniel, the Clayton County police officer overseeing the Explorers program.

"It's in the dictionary," the boy said.

"Well you're not Webster, and we don't use that word," the lieutenant said.

The program is designed to expose students to possible future careers and teach lessons of leadership, but Daniel also fields questions of grammar, citizenship, ethics and law.

She's been overseeing the program for seven years, and calls this year's class of 21 "my kids, also known as the future leaders of tomorrow."

The Clayton County Explorers are working their way up to competition, and are planning to compete in Gatlinburg, Tenn., in January. They've been exposed to vehicle-stop procedures, the go-cart driving equivalent to police car courses, the county jail and crime scene investigation.

Talking about a possible upcoming visit to jail, one student in a red hoodie tosses up the question, "If people know how bad jail is, how come they still do stuff and go to jail?" But then he actually listens as Daniel goes through the various reasons people end up on the wrong side of the law. With each one, too, she emphasizes why the Explorers won't take that path. "Not my kids," she said. "My kids are going to college, to make me proud."

Brittany Eason, a 16-year-old, who attends Forest Park High School, said she joined the Explorers earlier this year.

"When I get older, I want to do forensics, and this is a great opportunity for me to be introduced to law enforcement. And also, they offer scholarships. Hopefully, that'll help me out," Eason said.

She carried a small cup of coffee, in the dark outside the courthouse, to one of the men waiting to vote. "You sure you don't want cream or sugar?" she said.

The exercise was sort of planned at the last minute, something to get the costumed Explorers out in public, but Daniel said the impromptu service project was also a part of the mission.

"These kids, from all different schools, are learning that giving back to the community can actually be fun," the lieutenant said.

Anyone interested in joining the Explorers can call Daniel at (770) 477-3583.