PORT JERVIS – As of this month, 21 local youths have completed and graduated from Port Jervis Police Department’s fourth annual eight-day Summer Youth Academy. Each one will return to Port Jervis School District next month, taking with them their pledge to impact their schools, community, and neighborhoods in positive, helpful ways.
The middle and high school students spent a week-and-a-half with Police Chief William Worden, Juvenile Aid Unit Detective Peter Washalski, drill instructors/Officers Rich Santini and Kyle Mitchell, and other officers, community leaders, professionals, and positive role models.
Each academy day and lesson brought training as well as fun. Activities included health and wellness instruction and cooking lessons, CPR instruction and practice, Army leadership presentation and teamwork building, a State Police aviation safety presentation and a helicopter tour, crime scene instruction and hands-on investigation, social media and safety lessons, ecology lessons and park cleanup, water safety instruction and rafting trip, firearm’s instruction and practice, drug and alcohol abuse awareness, and instruction for self-defense.
Santini, a Marine veteran, kept each of the academy participants in impressive cadence with his booming drill instructions – back straight, arms at side, and in-step. The resulting line of march was met with appreciative spectator applause as the team of recruits and leaders marched the high school grounds to greet their families on graduation day.
Academy participants, parents, and other family members. praised the overall impact of the academy on each young recruit.
“I can tell you this, it brought her happiness and wonderful learning experiences every day. She talked from the moment I would pick her up until I dropped her off,” said Robin Fournier of her granddaughter Jaelyn, who completed the academy for a second time.
Madison Dobbs, also a second time participant, agreed. “I think this was a great experience for kids interested in police work or kids that just want to be a part of a group. It taught me discipline, leadership, and uniformity. My favorite part of this program was having all different leaders from our community come each day to show us different things like military work, first aid, police work, and much more,” said Dobbs.
Worden said the weeks are meant to help students learn to make good decisions under stress, take them out of their comfort zone, overcome challenges, build leadership skills, and promote community service, all of which he and other academy leaders saw happening during the time they spent together.
“I believe the recruits truly had a desire to challenge themselves and build leadership skills,” Worden said. “I believe the core values of self-discipline, leadership, respect, teamwork and service to community will resonate throughout their lives, impacting their neighborhoods, schools, and community.”
Besides the important lessons and skills gained by the recruits – all of whom successfully completed the academy – there was one additional overall assessment echoed by most.
“It was cool!” said Johnny, a first-time participant and soon-to-be seventh grade middle schooler. “I want to do it again next year.”