Police department Youth Academy extends invitation to students

Humera Lodhi

From Aug. 3-7, the Columbia Police Department will host its annual Youth Academy. Started by retired officer Linda Finchem, the Youth Academy gives Columbia Public School students an inside look at the CPD and the various aspects of being a police officer.
“I run it. It’s free transportation, free meals, free t-shirts,” Officer Keisha Edwards said. “We start out at the Police Department and get know our command staff, our chief and just talk about the mission and purpose of the police department. We learn about every department within the CPD, as well as pretty much all the departments in the fire department.”
The Youth Academy is open to Columbia students from grades 8-12. Each year, a few students from RBHS attend the Youth Academy to experience some of the roles police officers play in the community.
“There’s a few Career Center classes — the paramedics class, the fire training class. Those kids are interested in public safety. I take a list of students in all those classes, I contact all the students and tell them about the program,” Edwards said. “I would say last year six students from RBHS attended the Youth Academy.”
One of these students, senior Dennis Kalender, said he heard about the program last year from Edwards. Kalender knew he was interested in becoming an officer in the future and Edwards told him about the program. At the Academy, he learned about the different aspects of a police officer’s job.
“Every day [Youth Academy students] had to meet at the armory, and from there, [Edwards] arranged different activities. One of them was going to jail, seeing how things were there, getting inside knowledge on fingerprinting and how they do their police work,” Kalender said. “There were other things. My favorite was probably working with the SWAT team, because that’s what I want to do.”
Many times, after attending the Academy, students find ways to continue being involved in the police department. After completing the Academy, Kalender continued to work with Edwards, even accompanying her on some of her routine rounds and traffic stops.
This summer, he will be returning to the Academy, only this time he will help run it with Edwards.
“I would suggest [Youth Academy] to everyone, even if you don’t want to be a police officer. You get to see what their life is like, and what they do every day,” Kalender said. “If you want to be a police officer, it’s a bonus because it’s a little step to becoming one.”
All the students who attend the Academy, Edwards said, enjoy the program. It is a good way to learn about the various aspects of a police officer’s job.
“[The Youth Academy is] an inside look at what we do as a police department for young people. The goal for the police department is to keep hiring people to be police officers,” Edwards said. “Nowadays, a lot of people don’t want to be police officers, but if you give them this inside look, they see this job can be pretty cool. The idea is to deter students from crime with this inside look at the criminal justice system and at what it means to be a police officer.”
By Humera Lodhi