By Natalie Johnson / firstname.lastname@example.org
When asked what makes Lewis County Law Enforcement Explorer Hailee Olsen stand out, her adviser, Deputy Jeremy Almond, noted her enthusiasm, dedication and readiness to volunteer.
He also shared a story of Olsen’s actions during a physical fitness assessment at the Sheriff’s Office.
“There was a deputy who was struggling with the run, so she circled back to help him,” Almond said.
Olsen finished the run with the deputy, motivating him to finish strong.
“When I heard that, it wasn’t unexpected. It wasn’t a surprise to me,” he said. “Hailee would do something like that.”
Olsen, 17, a junior at W.F. West High School, was recently selected as the 2016 Washington state Explorer of the Year by the Washington Law Enforcement Exploring Advisors, or WLEEA.
She was also selected for the second time as the local explorer of the year, Almond said.
“I usually fly under the radar,” she said of winning the award. “It’s different.”
Olsen has been a member of the Lewis County Law Enforcement Explorers for two and a half years. She joined the group after her uncle, Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Dan Riordan, suggested she check it out.
“I came to my first meeting and I was totally hooked,” Olsen said.
All explorers must be 14 years old and finished with eighth grade. They can stay in the program until age 21. The program is chartered through Learning for Life, part of the Boy Scouts of America.
In the past two and a half years, Olsen has participated in two Explorer academies — a basic academy and an advanced academy focusing on crime scene investigation — and has rarely missed a post meeting.
She said the program has made her a stronger person and helped her overcome bullying she faced in middle school.
“I think just the attitude of the program has helped me stand up for myself,” she said.
Olsen was shy when she started the program, but now is anything but.
“She’s come a long ways,” Almond said.
Other Explorers have similar experiences.
“Every day you see the explorers that are under me and above me grow,” Olsen said.
Lewis County has a strong tradition of involvement with Law Enforcement Exploring. The Sheriff’s Office has had an Explorer post since 1992, and a number of current deputies were in the program as teens. Almond was an Explorer from 1999 to 2005, and was hired by the Sheriff’s Office in 2006.
Almond is the vice president of WLEEA and Chief Deputy Dusty Breen, also once an explorer and an Explorer post adviser at the Sheriff’s Office, is the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs liaison to WLEEA.
The program has inspired Olsen to become a law enforcement officer. She plans on going into patrol after getting an associate of arts degree when she graduates from high school.
“I do ride-alongs at least twice a month,” she said.
Olsen is scheduled to receive her award during a luncheon at the WASPC Spring Conference in Spokane later this month.