At the tender age of ten, Matthew had an issue that a Police Officer helped him with. He does not share the issue, but he does share that since that day, he was star struck. The Officer dealt with the issue, followed up with him, and that was it – Matthew knew that what had transpired made him want to be a Police Officer when he grew up.
He attended Junior Police Academy and that fueled his desire to learn more.
“My mom registered me for it, and I couldn’t wait to go – there was so much to experience,” says Matthew.
Then came junior high.
“I did not attend the best junior high school, and for a while I lost my way,” reflects Matthew.
But remembering the positive interaction he had with the Officer, and his fond memories of Junior Police Academy, it came rushing back to him. Suddenly he was a young man with a very sharp focus on his future. He started to make a detailed plan on how he was going to reach his dream career.
“I took a photography course in high school, so I would know how to photograph evidence because I thought that could be important,” says Matthew. “I took forensics, so I would understand some of the science behind crime.”
Next came the Calgary Police Cadet Corps.
“Joining Cadets was one of the best moves in my plan,” he says. “Everything I did in Cadets taught me that I am single-handedly responsible for my own actions. I learned that what happens to me and how I approach and deal with situations is not up to anyone except myself. Cadets toughened me up a great deal,” shares Matthew.
Matthew refers to both the physical and mental toughening as rewarding and useful.
“Getting called out for something was not anything I was used to – even getting that kind of attention to make me a better person was not anything I was used to,” he said.
He thoroughly enjoyed Cadets and everything it encompassed.
“Some of my favourite things included the drills every Thursday. Others were visiting and getting to know many of our police units such as Victims Assistance, the Tactical team, the Canine unit, and others.”
But perhaps more important than visiting the units was the strict work ethic he adopted.
“I learned so much about myself – and I think that is critical before I can learn to help others. I understand now my core values, my commitment to excel, my dedication to chase my dream, and especially my ability to work hard and be proud of it. I learned that all of it was important as it made me someone bigger than I was when I started.”
Other favourite memories included watching a training video on how to deal with an active shooter. Cadet camps where his physical strength was tested on the high ropes, and the day-to-day actions that replicated military life – everything from staying on site away from home, being responsible for his room, and working effectively within a team environment.
“I really enjoyed the military aspect to camp and to the entire program – it taught me discipline.”
There were 50 cadets when Matthew joined the Calgary Police Cadet Corps, and over 100 cadets in his last year. Matthew shares how he felt close to his colleagues, and how rewarding it was to be part of such a close community. The longer he was in it, the more the friendships blossomed, and even today Matthew has very good friends from colleagues he met in Cadets.
I asked Matthew the top three things he learned from being in the Calgary Police Cadet Corps.
“The first one is discipline. And this is a pretty broad scope – everything from being punctual, having a perfect uniform, being serious when wearing it because I represent the program, doing the tasks that were asked of me, and doing them in a very timely fashion. I was always thinking ahead to what I had to do for the next day. It made me feel switched on and always working towards something.”
Secondly, it taught Matthew hard work.
“I was not a hard worker before Cadets. I floated through school until I joined Cadets, and suddenly I had a positive reinforcement aspect to my life. I would work on my uniform for an hour, pinning it in the right locations, squaring it off, ensuring the creases were straight and sharp, double checking that it was completely wrinkle free, package it up in a suit back, spend just as much time polishing my boots as I did on my uniform, and then make my way to Westwinds for Cadets.”
It was scary in the beginning, but not enough to scare him away.
“It was like this big circle – I wanted to look perfect, so I didn’t get called out, but then I realized I was really doing it for myself,” admits Matthew.
Matthew put in the hard work because he wanted to do it.
“It was a huge confidence builder for me. I would be recognized and rewarded for my effort, and that was a big part of teaching me right from wrong and encouraging me to always do my best.”
Spending as much time on his uniform and boots as he did, Matthew earned not only compliments, but with the addition of his strong work ethic, was also rewarded with rank promotions that saw him graduate in 2015.
Lastly, Cadets taught Matthew the importance of physical fitness, strength, and endurance.
“I spend a lot of time in the gym now and learning to eat a healthy diet – all of it makes me a stronger person physically, and is preparing me to be a good Officer.”
A very humbling cadet experience and one that would have helped thousands of Calgarians was working tirelessly during the 2013 flood to help clean homes and give hope to those who had lost so much.
“It was so emotional to see the victims of the flood and help where we could. A stark reminder that sometimes Mother Nature has something unexpected planned, yet we are prepared to help clean up her disaster.”
“I was sad and a bit lost when I finished Cadets as it was such a huge part of my life, and a part that I loved,” shares Matthew.
But along the way, Matthew’s incredible common sense that has been his ally since he was ten, told him the smart thing to do would be to build a safety net and pursue another line of education that could either help in his policing career, or provide a career back-up. So, Matthew enrolled in the two-year business program at SAIT.
“It wasn’t just a back-up plan, but I figured that a business background could be an excellent complement to policing,” says Matthew.
He studied financial management, accounting, marketing, learned how to budget and invest, all courses leading to his completion of the program and in the end, specializing in Supply Chain Management.
“Public speaking was my biggest weakness,” he readily admits.
So, Matthew took a management class, and forced himself to make presentations constantly. One of them was a class on stress management.
“I related it to a movie – an historical event where 300 soldiers were holding back a million soldiers. There was a bottleneck into the valley, and the group of 300 followed one task at a time, focusing only on what they could control – and that was entrance into the bottleneck,” teaches Matthew. “They won the battle.”
He told the class, when you are freaked out or stressed, focus only on what you can do, and do it well. Don’t be side tracked or thinking about how things might turn out. Focus and be in the moment.
“What I think is most rewarding is that all the important policing skills I have learned have come from the Cadet program. I can take these skills when I apply to the Calgary Police Service, but I can also use them every day in my private life. They work across all aspects of my life,” exclaims Matthew.
“I also learned a process. You pick your end point, then work backwards to determine what you need to do to get to that end point.”
For Matthew, that has been something he’s been doing for 11 years. Matthew has been unwavering in his drive to be successful.
“Cadets and school have kept me busy – I am not spending time or precious money in the pubs, I have not spent a lot of time taking vacations, and as a result I have been able to save up money at the same time I am working towards my career aspiration.”
Matthew wonders if people might find him boring – but he has an answer.
“Hanging out or sitting in the pub is simply not what I want to do with my time – I am focused on my work, on my goals, on my fitness and health, on building my life as I see it unveiling, and I am very driven. I know exactly what I want, and I am doing everything I can to reach my goal,” states Matthew.
You can say that again. At age 21 he is researching his first home to buy and purchased his first new car a year and a half ago. He takes pride in preparing financial scenarios to determine what major assets he can afford, when, and how much he needs to save to acquire them.
To switch gears, I asked Matthew what he would say to Brian Ferguson, Calgary Police Foundation Board Chair and retired CEO of Cenovus, which is the company that has donated to fully support the Calgary Police Cadet Corps since its inception.
“If I had that chance to speak to Mr. Ferguson I would tell him that the Cadet program changed my life in a way that it needed to be changed. But I did not have the ability to change it on my own,” he shares. “I am only one person whose life has been so positively affected by Mr. Ferguson’s vision. Imagine the hundreds, if not thousands of young lives he and the Cenovus company have impacted. I can only say thank-you, but it is the most genuine and appreciative word I know.”
He goes on.
“I would also tell Mr. Ferguson that military programs look glamorous, but our Calgary Police Cadet Corps is better because it is more influential. It is newer and not set in its ways. There is always a new cycle of people – volunteers, cadets, Officers – constantly changing and refreshing the program. And it is not only people like me who want to be in policing, but it is also a great program for youth who have had a rough go. It is a chance to experience what it is like to be part of something bigger and so positive. It literally set the foundation for who I am today. That’s what Cenovus needs to know and what they need to be thanked for.”
Matthew also had some words of advice for kids and parents.
“For youth today, I would tell them that the skills they learn in Cadets will carry over for the rest of their life and that they will get out of it what they put into it. My suggestion is they put in the effort to make it fun and great things can happen in every aspect of their life.”
“I would tell parents that the skills their child will learn will change them for the better. Kids will learn hard work, discipline, and how to take responsibility for own actions.”
Matthew also shares that it is important for parents to know that graduating from Cadets will open up many other opportunities for their children.
“No matter what your children want to do with rest of their life – they will know how to interact, how to deal with difficult people and situations, learn that the decisions they make can lead them down a better path. The program offers tremendous opportunity for mentorship and for me that has been the foundation I needed to pursue my dream. Every mentor I have had, and there have been many, has taught me something different that I can use every single day. They have encouraged and allowed me to become a sponge for knowledge, and I will share, I was not always open to that. Cadets taught me why I should be,” shares Matthew.
Matthew is a bright star – one of today’s youth who have a passion for life. He has been relentless and unwavering in his drive to serve. The Calgary Police Foundation, which supports the Calgary Police Cadet Corps, congratulates Matthew and all those like him.
Story by Corinne Wilkinson