Making the Climb, One Step at a Time

Confronting challenges head-on is what law enforcement officers are trained to do in Forsyth Tech’s Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET). Yet, few have faced as many uphill battles outside of the academy as Cadet Sam Shamel.

Shamel shared some of his hardships before he decided to attend BLET. Twelve years ago, his mother passed away, and in 2017, his grandmother passed away. In 2018, he lost his grandfather and his sister, who died from an overdose. After a few jobs in construction, manufacturing and as a security guard with a private company, he saw an opportunity in law enforcement to help others.

To get into BLET, he first had to go to Forsyth Tech last fall to earn his high school equivalency and he thought that was an uphill battle. Beginning BLET in January, on the second day of class, he and his girlfriend broke up and he didn’t have a place to live. After a couple of days of sleeping in his car, Shamel hadn’t shaved and appeared unkempt. Lorin Dingler, Department Chair and School Director, Public Safety Technologies noticed that was unusual for Shamel so he asked him about his situation.

When Shamel explained, Dingler started working behind the scenes to see how he could help this new cadet. With support from the Forsyth Tech Foundation, Dingler reserved Shamel a hotel room for a couple of nights over a weekend. The next week, Dingler contacted the Advance Volunteer Fire Department and Chief Rodney Miller offered Shamel a place to stay.

“I was so impressed by the kindness shown to me by Chief Miller, Mr. Dingler, Greg Young and everybody at the college,” said Shamel. “It really felt like brothers in enforcement were helping me.”

Shamel then developed a bad cough and because he didn’t have medical insurance he didn’t go to the doctor for treatment. When his cough got worse, Officer Bryan Brown stepped in with a referral to Wake Forest Baptist Health for treatment for pneumonia, Dingler said, “You can’t catch a break.”

Once Shamel received medical treatment, he was back in class and during a rigorous subject control and arrest technique class, he left the room to get sick and then come right back for the physical challenges. The instructors, State Trooper Jim Seagle and Sergeant Brian Gieger with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, pulled him aside and said you are giving 120 percent, don’t give up.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes Rhonda Mullins, administrative assistant was quietly collecting supplies for Shamel, such as water, snacks and toiletries. The inside joke Shamel said, is she’s like our “mom.” Mr. Diggs is like our “cool uncle” who went out of his way to help him. Diggs advised Shamel on what might be causing his car to overheat and helped him find a solution. His also said his fellow recruits were incredibly supportive to make sure he would get through the academy.

Throughout all the trials, Shamel overcame whatever was put in front of him. He went on to win the Best Driver Award for the class.

When asked how he made it through in spite of all the trials, Shamel said, “I have a six-year old son who looks up to me and I want him to learn from me that you can’t ever give up.” Shamel graduated from the Basic Law Enforcement Training at Forsyth Tech in May.

Brian Diggs, Rhonda Mullins, Sam Shamel, and Lorin Dingler

Caption: From left Brian Diggs, Rhonda Mullins, Sam Shamel, and Lorin Dingler celebrate Sam’s graduation from BLET.