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State Police Expands Youth Explorer Program to Nine Posts Statewide

Think back to your teen years. Could you picture what life after high school looked like? 

Young adults often have no idea what their future holds or how beneficial it can be to get an early start with support from an established adult.

“We want kids to know a public service career is possible and it’s pretty awesome,” said Sgt. Ashley Kierpaul with the Michigan State Police Recruiting and Selection Section. “What they think policing is can be much different than what they actually experience in our Explorer Program.”

Battling staffing shortages and negative public perceptions about policing, the MSP developed a program that showcases law enforcement as a rewarding employment option.  

The MSP Explorer Program allows youth ages 14-21 to experience what it’s like to be a police officer through training and mentoring by MSP troopers. Once they reach 18 years of age, there’s an opportunity to apply for a paid position as a cadet.

Photo of MSP Youth Explorer Program participants

That’s the route 19-year-old Abigail Sands is taking. She and nine others graduated from the Cadet Academy this summer.

“My family knew I was interested in becoming a first responder, but I hadn’t figured out which area I wanted to pursue,” said Cadet Sands, who is assigned to the Metro South Post. “A relative saw a flyer for the MSP Explorer Program online and shared it with me. I’ve been in since May 2021.”

The program has been better than she imagined it could be.

“I thought we would sit in class and learn, and we do, but we interact with all parts of the department, all the specialty teams and help in the community too,” said Cadet Sands. “Residents understand we’re here to assist along with the troopers. They see us as kids making a difference.”

Photo of MSP Explorer participants

While the Explorer Program allows flexibility for school and other obligations, participants must maintain a 70 percent attendance rate. Classroom sessions are held at MSP posts once weekly where participants receive educational instruction on law enforcement-related topics and tackle scenario-based exercises like traffic stops. Leadership training and community service is also included.

“We started with our two posts in the Metro Detroit area and the Marshall Post,” said Sergeant Kierpaul. “Six additional posts have committed to hosting the program, which is exciting. We are now able to offer the experience to young adults around the state. They see firsthand all we have available from road patrol up to Colonel.”

Collin Cook applied for the Explorer Program after his first year of college.

“I was involved in a criminal justice program in high school,” said Cadet Cook who is now a cadet at the Marshall Post. “My instructor was a trooper who became my mentor. This program was the best way for me to put my name out there and become familiar with other troopers and the department.”

Now 19, he hopes to be accepted into the 144th Trooper Recruit School in June 2023.

“This is the perfect pipeline program,” said Cadet Cook. “We are exposed to every part of the department which makes us well rounded and ready for that next step.”

To be accepted into the Explorer Program, you must:

  • be 14-21 years old
  • have good academic standing (2.5+ GPA)
  • have no felony convictions
  • have excellent moral character

Those interested can apply here. Click here to view a list of participating posts.

To learn more about the Explorer Program, contact Sgt. Ashley Kierpaul at 989-513-4050 or