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grades were good but she was uncertain about a career direction. “It was my Criminology professor who encouraged me to test for the Police Academy. When I asked what that would involve, he told me the big- gest challenge for women was scaling a six-foot wall. ‘Women carry their weight in their hips so you have to jump a little differently than men,’ he said, and then he showed me how to do it. I followed his example and made it over the wall. The very next day in class he handed me a Police Academy application. I filled it out, took the test, and I was in.” At the Academy Zen and the Art of Public Safety C Written By Robin Shepherd ome December, Officer Melinda “Mindy” Zen will celebrate twenty years of service with Morgan Hill Police Department (MHPD). Learning about her career is all the more interesting when one realizes that behind her officer’s badge and neatly pressed uniform is a unique person—public servant, law enforce- ment professional, advocate, mentor, wife, mother, friend, and neighbor. Zen arrived in South County at age 23, a single mom with a new job and two daughters to raise. Reflecting on her journey, she said, “The Morgan Hill Police Department has been very good to me. Not a single day has gone by when I haven’t looked forward to my shift and felt proud of the work we do 48 for our community. I guess I’m fortunate that way.” Finding Her Path Zen was one of the first in her family to attend college. Her continuation high school art teacher, Jim Bixler, started an Advance to College program that was like a beacon lighting her path to the future. “I was earning high school and college course credits at the same time. Mr. Bixler started the program with students like me in mind. The fact that he saw our potential and took steps that benefitted us was so empowering. I will always be indebted to him.” At Fresno City College, she took Criminology, Psychology, Physical Education, and English classes. Her GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN JULY/AUGUST 2017 Zen took out student loans to cover Police Academy tuition, and spent week- ends selling sodas at the local flea mar- kets to pay for her training equipment. “Initially I had doubts, but half- way through the program I knew law enforcement was right for me. I was determined to learn everything I could and confident that I’d find good work after graduation.” Zen smoothly navigated the academic and physical rigors of training but struggled with tactical driving, which puzzled her instructors. Growing up in poverty, there was no family car for Zen to drive. The instructors were surprised to find she’d only had her driver’s license for six months. They spent time working with her and to her relief, she passed the tactical driv rFW7BGW&rG&r6Rw&fFFVBF66RrBƖ6FbFRr@'&Vfǒ66FW&VB&V6֖rGF&W26vRF涖r&WBFPFRBW&WV&VBFV&pFVw&VRǒ7G&VwFVVBW"&W6fRF&V6RƖ6Rff6W"6gFW"w&GVFVV@FR&vB6Rv2&VGFVfRg&W6&VBBW6FVB@FR&7V7Bbv&Bf֖ǒƖfR6WF6VGvևFF6