CERES -- Dedra Borges always has been driven.
She left high school and passed the General Education Development exam at the age of 15. She wanted to get out of school and start working as soon as possible.
"I always wanted to get as far as I could as fast as I could," she said.
Borges' motivation drove her right into Ceres' history books. She's the first woman to become sergeant at the police department.
Four of Ceres' 46 sworn police officers are women, about 8.7 percent. When the sergeant position opened over the summer, seven officers -- two of them women -- interviewed, Police and Fire Chief Art de Werk said.
Detective Jason Coley interviewed for the sergeant position with Borges. He praised her leadership and knowledge. During the testing, candidates were asked who they would like to see as sergeant if they didn't get the job themselves. Coley suggested Borges, as did several others, he said.
"Dedra's a very stable person. She's very mature. That kind of maturity is very important for a person in a leadership position," de Werk said.
Sergeant is now the first rank above officer in Ceres, since Borges' pro- motion from corporal. The department has one lieutenant, a com- mander and police chief. As one of nine sergeants, Borges over- sees six officers.
Ceres' portion of women on the force is a little lower than the state average, but higher than local agencies. About 12 percent of California's police officers are women; just over 10 percent of sergeants are women, accord-ing to the state Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training.
Modesto police has 13 sworn female officers, 4.8 percent of the force. In 1960, the first woman was promoted from officer to lieutenant, skipping sergeant, according to a spokesman.
Turlock police promoted its first woman to sergeant in 1989, a spokesman said. With four female officers, women make up 5.6 percent of the department.
Borges served as a corporal for five years training new officers. As sergeant, she serves as a shift supervisor, mentoring and training officers.
"The promotion is important -- it's important to show other women in the department even if they believe there are opportunities out there for performance, now it's been confirmed," de Werk said.
De Werk said the department's low turnover among sergeants and its small size allowed few opportunities for a woman to move into the position.
About breaking the glass ceiling in Ceres, Borges said women can add a different perspective to crime solving and police leadership.
"Men and women think dif- ferently -- they look at things from different angles," she said. "... Women can help diffuse a situation but they can also make it worse."
Borges said she teaches her daughter to be self-sufficient, not to depend on a man to support her. She also tries to instill a work ethic and good citizenship in her daughter and son.
Borges, 45, grew up in Sonora. After leaving high school, she studied at Columbia and Mo- desto Junior colleges and earned an emergency medical techni- cian certificate.
After four years working in ambulances, Borges said she was done with the blood and gore. She completed MJC's police academy and has spent 23 years with Ceres police.
In 1994, Borges found her calling -- the K-9 unit.
"It's the best job in the world, in the whole department. ... What better partner can you have?" Borges said, half joking. "I liked the cat-and-mouse game of hunting and finding the bad guys."
It was hard for Borges to give up working with the depart- ment's dogs, but she wanted the sergeant job to increase her retirement benefits.
Unable to part with her dog Deza, Borges said she'd only take the sergeant assignment if her family could keep the German shepherd.
"Deza is on reserve status -- he still helps out," Borges said. "He gets jealous when he sees me suiting up because he's not working."
The promotion also shifted Borges from night to day shifts. Nights are different, she said, because the "criminal element" is out in full force.
Borges tries to maintain separate lives at work and at home. Being a mom and having a career has been possible, Borges said, because of support from her husband, family and friends.
"It's hard -- you're pulled in two directions," she said. "My husband always adjusts his work schedule when needed. I worked 13 years on night shifts -- it worked because of him."
Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2339.