Chicago Youth Becomes Federal Agent With Help of CBP Explorer Program
Chicago - U.S. Customs and Border Protection Supervisor Jose Venegas is a 35-year-old first generation Mexican-American and a top manager for the Chicago Office of Field Operations, with over 32 CBP Midwest offices within his jurisdiction. He got his start as one of many diverse Chicago youth who became part of a CBP program as a teen and successfully followed the program's path to becoming a federal law enforcement officer. This fall, CBP is looking for more youth just like Jose Venegas.
When Venegas was 18-years-old and a senior at Curie High School in Chicago, his baby sister joined a program that would change his life - the U.S. Customs Law Enforcement Explorer program. He became interested and asked to tag along to see what it was about. His sister said ok but only if he kept his mouth shut.
"How many times do you say to yourself, that's what I want but don't know exactly how to get it," Venegas said. "The whole Chicago U.S. Customs Law Enforcement Exploring program was very hands-on. We were able to personally interact with Customs inspectors, special agents and officers from the FBI, Secret Service, state troopers and local police. If you were interested in a career in law enforcement, it was like one-stop shopping. Once I saw what it was about, I decided that's what I wanted and stuck with it. But the program is no cakewalk. I remember the physical training of running the stairs in the Customhouse, just like the kids do today."
Venegas graduated with high honors from DePaul University with a major in education and Latin-American studies. He went on to become a U.S. Customs Inspector and then head advisor of the Chicago Law Enforcement Explorers Post in June 2002. Many explorers, who graduated from the program, have also become federal law enforcement officers in a variety of agencies including CBP, FBI and U.S. Secret Service.
It all starts in the fall with an open house for interested teens and their parents. This year's Chicago CBP Law Enforcement Explorer open house is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., Thursday, October 6, at 610 South Canal St., in downtown Chicago, on the 6th floor.
Before graduating, a CBP explorer must earn 240 hours of community service; meet challenging physical and academic requirements along with additional rigorous criteria. The advisors, most of whom are federal law enforcement officers themselves, are always engaged with the youth to show positive alternatives to issues.
The law enforcement exploring program is a subsidiary of the Boy Scouts of America and is open to young adults between the ages 14 through 21. Nationally, over 33,000 explorers and 8,425 adult volunteers participate in this successful life-changing program.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.