The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Youth Academy provides students the opportunity to learn about and engage with law enforcement.
That according to County’s Resource Officer Gary Howard.
“So what we wanted to do was first introduce law enforcement to these children and let them understand what this is all about, hopefully inspiring careers in them,” Howard said. “But the main thing we really wanted to be able to do was to look at the values, the attitude, the leadership, order, and respect. And teach them just a few basics of life, so they can be good citizens regardless of what direction they go into.”
Howard said the academy will finish its sixth year in July.
“We modify it every year to some degree. We learn from our mistakes, I would say. We learn what works, what doesn’t work,” Howard said. “And we try to make due to the age group. We do three weeks currently, next year we are going to four weeks.”
The Sherriff’s office designed the Youth Academy to show students that law enforcement cares, Howard said.
“On the first day, when they come in, they are greeted by the sheriff. The sheriff will speak to them and find out what their hopes and dreams are at life. He will, in turn, try to encourage them to pursue their dreams,” Howard said. “And he tells them what the sheriff’s department is like and what it is like to get a career in law enforcement and how to start going about doing that even in grade school.”
The academy focuses on different elements of law enforcement, from SWAT to investigations.
Howard said the academy gives students and officers opportunities to get to know one another.
“Law enforcement officers, in general, normally deal with people in negative situations on a regular basis. They don’t get to come into work and have a good day with good things coming their way. Most of the time it is bad stuff,” Howard said. “These law enforcement officers, whether they be SWAT or investigators, or patrol officers or whomever they may be, when they come into this youth academy to work with these kids, they realize why they are doing what they do.”
The opportunities do not end at the academy level. Once the students have graduated, the Sheriff’s Department welcomes the cadets to work with law enforcement throughout the year.
“They can come out and work community functions with us, they can go to neighboorhood watch meetings and help us work,” Howard said. “They can come out to different things going on in the community and represent the sheriff’s department as a sheriff department cadet. And our hope is that our cadets will take it back to their schools with them.”
Graduation for the Sherriff’s Youth Academy will take place on July 27.