As a young girl, Haley Vandepoele remembers meeting her local RCMP's detachment commander shortly after her family moved to the same neighbourhood in Landmark, Man. — a small town 40 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg.
"I think I was six when we met," she says, referring to new RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki. "I wanted to be just like her."
On June 11, Vandepoele's dream to become a Mountie came full circle when she graduated from the RCMP Training Academy, also known as Depot. And the person who inspired her, Lucki, was there to give her and her troopmates their police badges.
"Haley's a natural born leader and a good communicator," says Lucki. "She works hard to be the best at everything she does — as do all our new constables."
The 24-year-old's path to the national police force began in 2001 when her family met Lucki, who they would often see in uniform.
Since then, Vandepoele says she's always been interested in the RCMP and has been inspired by Lucki's career path.
"I knew Brenda as a person before she became the RCMP commissioner and I wanted to be able to touch lives like she has," she says, recounting stories she heard about the commissioner's work — both across Canada and in conflict zones, such as the former Yugoslavia.
"As a police officer, you'll see people on their worst days at a time when they're most vulnerable," says Vandepoele. "So hopefully there's something I can do or say that will make a difference."
For her part, Lucki remembers a child who was always inquisitive about police work.
"Then she announced that she wanted to be a Mountie and talked about it every chance we had," says Lucki.
Vandepoele graduated from high school in 2012 and then spent three years at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology studying to become a personal trainer, while also winning the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference championships for the school's hockey team.
After graduating, she knew Depot was in her future, and Lucki was aware of that, too.
She says she also knows Vandepoele is eager to serve the residents at her first posting in Whitemouth, Man.
"She's a people person with a very positive attitude and she connects well with people," says Lucki, who adds that this is what often makes employees the RCMP's best recruiters.
"Members and employees need to take the time to connect with youth and brag about our great organization so we can attract the best people," says Lucki.