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Mentorships Give Rouse Scholars Real-World Work Experience, Direction

Student with HCPD mentor and canine

Shannon Burbank entered Howard Community College’s Rouse Scholars Program last fall as a general studies major with little direction of what she wanted to do after college.

By early spring, she knew she wanted to pursue a career in law enforcement.

Shannon’s decision came after spending several hours, spread out over weeks, with Sgt. Marc LeRoux, supervisor in the K-9 Unit of the Howard County Police Department. The pairing was part of a mentorship facilitated through the Rouse Scholars Program – a requirement of first-year students as part of the student experience, said Laura McHugh, assistant director of the Rouse Scholars Program.

Mentorships are one of the components of the program, Laura said.

“We feel like it lays the groundwork. Some students have a focus and know what they want to major in, what career they’re interested in, but often times they don’t.”

Even those who know – or think they know – what they want in a career benefit from the mentorship because they have the advantage of seeing that career in a real-world setting.

“We’ve seen some who know what they want experience it in real life and decide they no longer want to do that, or we tweak their focus,” Laura said.

Throughout the years, students have been paired with a multitude of mentors, including politicians at the state and local level, physicians, gaming designers, law enforcement, and even museum curators.

Although Shannon was undecided in a career, she was interested in exploring law enforcement for her mentorship. In December, she was connected with Sgt. LeRoux and his K-9 partner, Perla, a black Labrador Retriever.

Shannon watched and participated in a variety of exercises with the K-9 Unit.

“I enjoyed seeing how each dog worked through the task and how each officer interacted differently with their dogs when going through the same exercises,” she said. “Because of this, I was able to learn a lot about the unique relationship between a K-9 and a handler.”

Shannon said she appreciated that her visits were treated as regular days, and hearing the comments on the handlers’ performances allowed her to grasp what a real work day would be like for a trainee.

She also valued the time spent with patrol officers during two ride-alongs, which gave her the opportunity to see how the officers spend their day and ask questions about their time on the force.

“They told me about their various experiences in different positions in the police department, and how each one has led to the police officers they are today,” Shannon said. “This has been of extreme assistance in my decision-making process.”

After the experience, Shannon took the time to write Sgt. LeRoux an email to thank him for the experience.

“I feel you should know that because of this mentorship, I have decided to pursue a career in law enforcement and will be studying criminology in my future college courses,” she wrote. “I would not have come to this conclusion were it not for the time and effort you and your unit have put in to mentor me. It has been enormously beneficial and I am very grateful.”

Learn more about the Rouse Scholars Program.

Topics: Career Focus
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