EVART – Internships are often a necessary rite of passage for many college students on the way to earning their degrees. While the responsibilities involved are often grunt work, the value of on-the job learning cannot be denied- something the interns at the Evart Police Department are learning all too well.

Each summer, the Evart Police Department employs interns who gain on-the-job experience and networking. This year, the interns are Gabriel Lockhart, of Reed City, and Demi Vrbensky, of Barryton. They both are about to complete their senior years in college, with Vrbensky earning a degree in criminal justice at Ferris State University and Lockhart working toward a degree in aviation administration at Western Michigan University.

“I couldn’t say enough good things about both of them,” said Kendra Backing, Chief of Police at the Evart Police Department. “They’re good kids, hard workers, smart and motivated. The internship will look good on their resume in the future.”

Both began working with the department at the beginning of May. Lockhart mainly works in the office while Vrbensky is usually out in the field accompanying Evart police officers on ride-alongs.

“We try to accommodate people with a criminal justice interest,” Backing said. “The internship is helpful in that it gives them the opportunity to work with professionals in their area of interest.”

Before coming to the Evart Police Department, Lockhart worked at Western’s police department for three years.

Although he first looked for an internship at the Evart airport, he was awarded both an internship there and with the police department. While interning with the Evart airport, which he starts later this summer, he will work alongside Evart City Manager Zack Szakacs, helping him oversee a grant the airport was awarded.

“I like flying, traveling and interacting with people,” Lockhart said. “Aviation is a very people-based career. Interning with the Evart Police Department and airport is keeping me on that path. I know better what the future holds for me working at small airports like the Evart airport, and that knowledge can be applied to bigger airports or wherever I end up.”

Because of the potentially dangerous nature of police work, some departments do not employ interns.

“Some agencies won’t take on interns because it can be a liability to have a civilian with you,” Backing said. “We have the interns with us, but we don’t have them come to something that is potentially dangerous. We allow them on ride-alongs to things such as traffic stops. They are there to observe.”

While Lockhart works mainly out of the office, Vrbensky is out on the street. She is required to write reports about her internship, which are submitted to her adviser. She’s also learned how to write incident and administrative reports.

“I do a lot of watching and stand-by,” Vrbensky said. “I usually stay in the vehicle, depending on the situation.”

Vrbensky said she is learning about officer safety, how to talk to the public and talk on the radio.

“She’s doing a great job,” said Officer Lorne Juday. “She’s started making good observations and picking up on tactics and safety regulations. After every call we make, we stop and debrief and talk about why I chose to do the things I did. She’s coming up with good questions and evaluations.”

The Ferris student is looking to join the military after she graduates from college, either in the National Guard or Army Reserves in active duty.

“The internship will help me get my degree,” Vrbensky said. “Once I join the military, because I have a degree, I’ll get my stripes sooner than someone without a degree.”

While they may be on summer vacation, both interns stay busy working their internship and other jobs. Lockhart also works at the County Veterinary Support Clinic for Reed City, a job he has held for seven years. When she’s not with the department, Vrbensky works with autistic children in Stanwood.

“It’s a lot of work. You have no free time,” Lockhart said. “For me personally, I have two internships and a job, so that’s even more work. It’s stressful, but fun because I’m still getting all the experience. It’s preparing me for, if I have two jobs in the future, I know how to manage my time.”

Both interns are looking forward to working Independence Day in Evart.

“I’m looking forward to working the fireworks on Thursday and to see how the city works together,” Vrbensky said. “There will be a lot of people and more traffic to navigate.”

“I’m excited for the airport,” Lockhart added. “And Independence Day, helping out with the 5K and anything the police officers need help with to make sure everything runs smoothly.”

The internship, while challenging at times, is helping each intern on their path to the future.

“I remember being an intern,” Backing said. “You gain a lot from that observation period. This internship offers a good insight into what law enforcement is like on a day-to-day basis.”