MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- A free college education and a job in law enforcement is being offered to 150 local high school seniors who apply and are selected for the brand new Blue Path program.
WREG's Luke Jones was told the program begins next June and participants get a free 2-year criminal justice degree and a paid job with Memphis Police. After that, they're eligible to become a police officer.
Ladell Beamon with the Heal The Hood Foundation was excited when he heard about the unique opportunity.
He helps teens find the right career path, and said many have expressed an interest in police work. The problem is with very few resources, those kind of jobs can sometimes seem out of reach.
"A lot of kids are just not able — they`re not privileged," said Beamon.
Students who participate in the Blue Path program will attend Southwest Tennessee Community College for free while working full-time for MPD as police service technicians.
"They`ll be able to earn $26,000 a year while they`re going through the program in the summer," said Christopher Ezell with Southwest Tennessee Community College.
In the fall, they'll start work on their associate's degree and continue working with MPD.
"Now you have an opportunity to actually see the police invested in the future of these young people that will one day be filling those same shoes," said Beamon.
Mike Williams, president of the Memphis Police Association, said he likes the program, "but I think it`s a day late and a dollar short."
He said it'll be 3 years before graduates can apply to work as an officer and that does nothing to solve the challenges officers face now, some of whom, Williams says, is working 16-hour shifts.
"The individuals that are working now, a lot of them don`t even want to work overtime because they`re burnt out."
Proponents said you have to look at the bigger picture. They said in the long run the program will add more officers to the force.
"This is gonna be a great source of police officers for the city and we`ll replace officers who retire or maybe change jobs," said Ezell.
The deadline to apply is November 1.
For more information or to apply, click here.