Posted September 15, 2014
In a room filled with brawny young men, the slender, long haired, blonde girl seems to stick out like a sore thumb. But when it comes to work ethic, she fits right in. Sixteen-year-old Cassidy Lawson, a sophomore at Denver Online High School, was recently named Police Explorer of the Year in Castle Rock Police Explorers Post 401.
The explorers program teaches young men and women the fundamentals of being a police officer. “We basically get the same training as the police officers get. We just build on the difficulty of it throughout the year,” Lawson said. The group meets weekly to learn new tools, such as how to control traffic stops, talk to people who are at a park after hours, and handle domestic violence situations.
Meetings usually consist of participating in uniform inspections in the courtroom, saying the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer, and then starting into their trainings. She said the group will take notes on the teaching and then practice what they have learned through scenario simulations. At the end of the night, the explorers take a quick test on what they learned that night.
Lawson expressed, “We’ll eventually work our way up to high risk situations.” She is eager to learn more about these high risk circumstances as she wants to one day be a police officer, specializing in negotiations. Police negotiators help in crises like hostage situations, mediating communication with the captor. This is something that Lawson is already good at, taking first at the regional competition last year. When asked if she was scared about working in these daunting settings, she said, “There’s certain situations that could be, but as long as you’re trained and well prepared for it, it should be okay.” And she certainly has been working towards proficiency, spending more than 200 hours volunteering with the program just this past year.
With the explorers program, she has volunteered at multiple events, including providing security at the Castle Rock Star Lighting, managing a haunted house, directing bikes at the Elephant Rock Cycling Festival, guiding traffic at the parade after the county fair, and judging the Top Gun motorcycle competition for law enforcement. However, her largest contribution to the explorers has been her time running the Honor Guard. She manages a group of five people, leading monthly trainings about commands. In the Honor Guard, she calls cadence while four others hold the American flag, the Colorado flag, and two rifles on either side. The team presents the flags at special events, such as the opening of new businesses around Castle Rock or the police officer initiation ceremony.
Lawson came to Denver Online High School last semester from Douglas County High School. She said she moved to the online platform after being unsatisfied with her education, “I wasn’t learning what I should have been learning.” She also said, “In regular school, you end up wasting so much time in a regular classroom.” She expressed that with Denver Online, she can now work at her own pace and plan schoolwork around the multiple extracurricular things she does. “I can get my classes done so much faster in an online school,” Lawson said. While she had tried online instruction previously in sixth grade at COVA, the school didn’t offer interaction with real teachers like Denver Online does. She was also drawn to Denver Online for its concurrent enrollment program, saying, “You’re the first school I actually heard of paying college classes while taking high school classes.” And she is taking full advantage of this opportunity, currently taking classes at Arapahoe Community College. She is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology to better prepare her as a police officer, saying, “Through psychology, you can just understand more of why people do what they do.” As she continues with Denver Online, she has the opportunity to gather multiple college credits. Acknowledging the ability to graduate with her high school diploma and a load of tuition-free college credits, she said, “It’s really nice. I don’t have to worry about paying for it when I go to a year of college.”
Lawson is what online school is all about. Not only is she pursuing the police explorers program, she also is very active in 4-H, showing her two dogs, sheep, and rabbit. She is able to DO MORE, learn more, and experience more than she may have in a traditional setting. However, she admits, “For some people, online school either works for you or it doesn’t.” Expanding on this topic she said, “When you’re at online school, you have to be really self-motivated.” Lawson’s statement is right on point and her story epitomizes what it means to be an online student. When you can find cadence between education and real-world experience, negotiate successful learning outcomes by finding the right educational path, and take control of your own education, you win. The school wins. The community wins. We might not all be able to win Explorer of the Year like Lawson, but we can all aspire to roll past those disguised stop signs and traditional school laws, and instead focus on DOING MORE.