Vandalia High School Alumni Zane Steele spends his days serving the community that raised him, as a police officer. A 2019 graduate, Zane moved to Northern Illinois to work in corrections at Pontiac Prison. While Zane says he “didn’t mind it,” he adds, “I couldn’t see myself doing it forever.” So after two years of following in his family’s footsteps—his father is a retired corrections officer, and his brother works in corrections—he decided to explore a career in police work.
Serving the Community That Raised Him
Zane graduated from the academy and returned home. He now works as one of a dozen primarily local individuals in the Vandalia Police Department. He considers Vandalia a great place to live, sharing it’s “just a warm community. Everybody seems to know everybody, and we have a clean community. Everybody gets along. There are a decent amount of opportunities within the community. Room for families to grow and develop.”
Besides working in the community, Zane also recently purchased a house and is set to be married to his fiancé, Bailey, next month. While some would find it awkward to work as a police officer in the town in which they grew up, Zane embraces the opportunity. “It has benefits. Since I grew up here, I know most of the community. People see me, and a lot of people recognize my face. Most of our officers grew up, went to school here, and joined the force. I think it has way more benefits than negatives.”
He relents that “It can be awkward from time to time. But most times, it just aids. You already have a relationship built. People can look beyond the uniform as they already know you as a person.”
While corrections could be monotonous, Zane shares that as a police officer, ‘It’s pretty much different every day.” He shares that some days are slow, whereas other days, he’ll be running from call to call. While he’ll spend some days focused on traffic, others involve spending time in the community, and attending sporting events; overall, trying to make a difference and helping others is the common thread that ties the work together.
Looking back, Zane shares that he wouldn’t classify himself as studious in high school. He laughs and says he was never a fan of school. One individual Zane can’t help but remember is his basketball coach and principal, Nick Casey, who he looked up to in high school. What Zane enjoyed most was athletics. While he played basketball, his favorite sport was track, and he specialized in the pole vault and went to state three years in a row. Zane finished second in the indoor state track championships his junior year, deciding to retire immediately afterward.
As Zane looks back on his time in high school, his advice to the next generation is simple but not easy. “I’ve worked jobs I’ve hated. Luckily, I found one I love pretty early compared to a lot of people. Whatever you think you want to do, chase it, and if you go down different avenues, wherever you’re supposed to go, you’ll end up. Don’t get stuck doing something you don’t want to do forever. Take the risks while you’ve got the chance. You don’t have a mortgage or anything like that. So go out, be poor, take the risk, and go for what you want to go for. Keep grinding until you get it.”
Zane uses his life as an example, tying it all together by sharing, “If you keep plugging at it, eventually it works out.”