Superstar Teens: An NYPD Youth Leader and a Fingernail Artist

Meet two teenage superstars: Paulina Skladnik, 17, leads the youth group in the NYPD’s Law Enforcement Explorers program. And Michelle Ramírez, 15, paints celebrity faces on acrylic nails. The Polish-language publication Nowy Dziennik and the Spanish-language publication El Diario La Prensa ran profiles on the teens.

Reporter Wojtek Maślanka profiled Paulina Skladnik for Nowy Dziennik. The 17-year-old leads the youth group in the NYPD’s Law Enforcement Explorers program at the 94th Precinct in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Her achievements include assisting as a Polish-language interpreter, acting as commander for a day, winning an NYPD essay contest, and serving as the highest ranking Greenpoint cadet in her category. The abridged translation below is by Aleksandra Slabisz, also a reporter at Nowy Dziennik.

Officer Leanna Brown of the 94th Precinct in Brooklyn with teen cadet Paulina Skladnik. (Photo by Wojtek Maślanka/Nowy Dziennik)

At first glance, [Paulina Skladnik] is a typical teenager who may seem more inclined to have fun rather than engage in drills, discipline, exercise and stressful situations. She was born in Warsaw, Poland and came to the United States with her parents when she was only five. She speaks Polish fluently and displays truly Slavic features: a tall blond with blue eyes and a charming smile. However, her cadet uniform and the place where she spends most of her spare time — the 94th Precinct in Greenpoint — add seriousness to her demeanor. Having exchanged just a couple of sentences with her, one can easily notice they are dealing with a superlative, highly ambitious person who has clear goals and is determined to reach them.

She already has a couple of achievements on her record. Quite recently, on June 6, she became a commander of the Greenpoint precinct for a day and was responsible for the functioning of the entire NYPD unit. It wasn’t simply an honorary position. She had to oversee the duties of all officers and the functioning of the entire unit. Such an honor is awarded only once a year to the best cadet from the Law Enforcement Explorers program.

“… It was a valuable experience for me and something that made me even more interested in the LEE program,” said Paulina, who also  mentioned that she gained a couple of credits for participating in the program and she hopes they will help her get accepted to the Police Academy or for criminal studies.

Paulina with NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly receiving her prize for winning the essay contest. (Photo via Nowy Dziennik)

Other awards on her record include the title of Explorer of the Year 2012, which she received during a ceremony attended by NYPD commissioner Raymond Kelly, Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg and many other officials…

Paulina has been in the [Law Enforcement Explorers] program for the past year and a half. The Greenpoint group, which is growing rapidly, counts 41 cadets, half of whom have Polish roots. They aim to expand the group to 100 members.

Cadets meet in practical and theoretical classes three times a week. They often represent the NYPD at parades and other events, and enhance security during charity events such as fundraisers for children and teens. They also take an active part in improving the standard of life in their local community through activities that include cleaning parks, helping the elderly and learning police duties. They also have the opportunity to practice their skills in various police actions like arrests, searches and investigations.

Although the program may seem dangerous – as is the job of a police officer – this is not the case. Cadets who are working in the field are always protected by two NYPD officers and are taught how to properly behave in difficult and dangerous situations… Cadets wear special uniforms – grey pants and navy blue jackets, but don’t carry weapons.

Paulina’s parents initially approached her daughter’s “uniform activity” with reserve, but knew that ever since she was a child, she had been interested in the police. She dreamed of becoming a detective. Now they are proud of Paulina and her achievements….

“Paulina is exceptional and extraordinary,” said the program supervisor, Officer Leanna Brown. “She excels as a manager, supervisor and planner and works well with people in the field. She always has everything under control and does exactly what is expected of her. She will make a great police officer in the future. She could even one day become NYPD commissioner.”

Meanwhile, Zaira Cortés at El Diario/La Prensa introduced us to Michelle Ramírez, whose drawings of celebrities on acrylic nails are a part of the catalog at her mother’s nail salon. The 15-year-old small-canvas artist dreams of one day becoming a professional artist. A translation by Emily Leavitt from the original Spanish is below.

Michelle Ramírez, 15, displays her portfolio of acrylic nail designs. (Photo by Zaira Cortes/EDLP)

For a teenager born and raised in El Barrio, part of her daily life is giving free reign to her imagination; she paints faces on tiny individual canvases with incredible ease.

In her free time, Michelle Ramírez, 15, hangs out at her mother’s nail salon on the corner of 117th Street and 1st Avenue. It is there that she discovered her special talent that has shocked her neighbors, family, and friends. Ramírez paints celebrities’ faces on acrylic nails.

Some of Michelle’s designs Algunos diseños de Michelle, en el que figura el rostro de la famosa actriz Audrey Hepburn. (Photo via El Diario/La Prensa)

“I come here to watch my mother work and to learn from her,” said Ramírez. “She lets me use her nail polish to make my art.”

Ramírez said that a year ago in the late summer, she suddenly got the idea to paint the face of the legendary actress Audrey Hepburn.

“I’ve been drawing since I was a little girl. My dream is to go to college and study art or design. It feels fantastic to communicate my ideas with paintbrushes and pictures.”

Ramírez has also painted the face of Marilyn Monroe, among other famous figures, in addition to creating unique designs that she gives as gifts to her mother.

“I’m very proud of my mother because she’s a very successful small business owner. She believes in me and I try to help her by coming up with designs for her store.”

Some of the designs and faces Ramírez has created are part of the nail salon’s catalog. Many clients find the young woman’s portfolio amazing.

“There are people that come here because they saw my drawings on other people’s nails. That makes me happy, because I know that I will be a professional artist someday.”

Guadalupe Castro, Ramírez’s mother, said that providing her daughter with the tools she needs to achieve her dreams is a responsibility she takes on with pleasure.

Michelle Ramírez and her mom, Guadalupe Castro, who the teenager says has always believed in her talent. (Photo by Zaira Cortes/EDLP)

“My daughter comes to the store for fun, but we never thought that one day she would surprise us with her talent.”

Castro said that although her daughter is very young, her first great triumph has been to express her creativity on many people’s hands.

“I think that parents should be involved in their children’s goals and help their children to reach them. It gives you a great sense of satisfaction to help them get started on the long road ahead.”

Ramírez said that she shares her designs with her friends, and in the future she hopes to take art classes to perfect her technique, since drawing on tiny canvases is only the beginning of a great dream.


  1. My son wants to work for NYPD. I wanted to know if he can get a tour of the police station in Manhatten. He is 14 years old. thank u

  2. Pingback: A Lifetime Covering Polonia, from Warsaw to Greenpoint | Voices of NY

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