Chatham County Sheriff’s Rising STAR Program inspires teens

Pittsboro, NC – A couple of weeks ago, the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office debuted its Rising STAR (Sheriff’s Training Academy for Residents) Program, a new initiative designed specifically for teenagers. Building on the success of the adult STAR Program, the Rising STAR Program ran from June 17-21, 2024, offering 16 students from schools across Chatham County a comprehensive, hands-on look into the multifaceted operations of the Sheriff’s Office.

Under the guidance of seasoned investigators, students survey a simulated crime scene, gathering clues and interviewing suspects.

“The STAR Program has always been a fantastic way to connect with our community, and we’re excited to extend this opportunity to our younger residents,” said Sheriff Mike Roberson. “The Rising STAR Program provides invaluable insights into law enforcement and community service, giving teens a unique perspective on what we do.”

Throughout the weeklong program, teenage participants — many of whom expressed an interest in law enforcement careers — engaged in a variety of activities.

They toured the Detention Center to understand its operations and inmate management. This provided the students with a firsthand look at how the facility is run, the daily routines within the detention center, and the protocols in place for managing inmates.

The program also included investigating a simulated crime, where students learned about crime scene processing and investigation techniques. This exercise demonstrated the meticulous nature of forensic work and the critical thinking required to solve complex cases.

A visit to the Sheriff’s Animal Resource Center offered insights into animal control and welfare. Students observed how the center operates, the care and management of the animals, and the role of animal control officers in the community.

In a mock trial, the participants deliberated the outcome of a DUI case, enhancing their understanding of the judicial process. This activity allowed students to step into the role of jurors, offering them a practical understanding of legal proceedings and the responsibilities involved.

On Friday, the last day of the program, the students participated in ride-alongs with an officer to experience the daily duties and responsibilities of patrol officers. This ride-along provided a realistic view of the challenges and scenarios officers face, from routine patrols to emergency responses.

“We designed this program to be engaging and authentic,” said Sheriff Roberson. “We want our Rising STARS to see what really goes on in the Sheriff’s Office.”

“The program exceeded my expectations,” said 15-year-old Yarai Padilla Balderas, who especially enjoyed gathering evidence and working the simulated crime scene. “I want to become a detective, and this program gave me a detailed look at what my future career might look like.”

Added 18-year-old Mackenzie Basilio, “I would definitely recommend this program to anyone interested in law enforcement or wanting to learn more about the Sheriff’s Office. I had a lot of fun and learned a lot.”

Rising STAR graduates proudly celebrate their achievement alongside Sheriff Mike Roberson (right) and Chief Deputy Steve Maynor (left)

The program culminated with a graduation ceremony held Monday, June 24, 2024, in the Historic Chatham County Courthouse in Pittsboro, where each of the program’s graduates received a certificate and enjoyed dinner with their families and Sheriff’s Office personnel.

Students interested in future Rising STAR programs may contact Lt. Rischetta White at