Teens learn teamwork, discipline at state police camp
The annual State Police Youth Week is, technically, a summer camp. But the 80 teens in attendance this year aren't making s'mores or catching frogs.
Instead, they are up and out by 5 a.m. every day and don't finish until 9 o'clock at night, according to Cpl. Adam Reed, a state police spokesman. They are called cadets rather than campers, and they are there for a specific reason.
"They're here because they are interested in law-enforcement careers and military careers," he said. The weeklong camp has been in existence since the 1970s and is designed to simulate training in military boot camp and police academies, according to Reed.
"It's an action-packed week," he said. "We go on a lot of field trips."
State Police Youth Week, which is based at the York College campus, started Sunday. Cadets will graduate Saturday, Reed said.
The youths, who range in age from 15 to 17, start running and doing exercises at the crack of dawn, he said, and their classes are hands-on.
Monday morning, they were awakened at 4:30 a.m. in the college dorm where they're staying by a fire alarm, simply "to keep them on their toes," Reed said.
"It's a long week," he said. "You have to deal with being tired and ... learning to fight that."
Shoot, splash, climb: On Tuesday morning, the teens learned about the handguns, Tasers and other tools troopers carry on their utility belts, and they also got to check out PSP tactical equipment. The class was taught on the York College lawn by Reed, Trooper Brent Miller and others as rapt cadets sat under the shade of an old sycamore tree.
Tuesday afternoon, they were allowed to hit the York College pool, but not to relax. Instead, they learned water rescue techniques from members of the National Guard, according to Reed. That included instruction on how to use one's own clothing as flotation devices by filling sopping-wet shirts or pants with air.
Wednesday, the cadets went to the Pennsylvania State Police Academy, where they got to check out a helicopter and bomb-squad equipment, among other things, the corporal said.
They'll fire weapons at a local gun range and learn basic firearm safety from National Rifle Association instructors, according to Reed.
Also this week, cadets will climb into tanks at Fort Indiantown Gap and negotiate rope courses and zip lines at Roundtop Mountain Resort, he said, adding the latter excursion will promote team-building.
Lasting bonds: Reed said cadets learn about teamwork, self-esteem and discipline. They also forge lasting bonds with each other and their instructors, he said.
"We have troopers on the job now who went through it," Reed said. "They have great memories."
At the end of the long days, instructors and cadets hang out together playing basketball, kickball and volleyball, the corporal said.
A few cadets drop out every year, Reed confirmed; this year, two have left so far.
"You have some people who get here and find it's not for them," he said. "We try our best to talk to them and get them to stay."
Doing their best: Cadet Chase Reed of East Prospect, no relation to Cpl. Reed, will be a junior at Eastern York High School this fall.
"I want to gain knowledge of military careers," Chase said as he stood straight and tall in the familiar "at ease" posture.
He hopes to one day attend West Point — the U.S. Military Academy — and confirmed the first few days of State Police Youth Week have been rigorous.
"The drill sergeants do push you and make you do your best," Chase said.
The 16-year-old told The York Dispatch he "knew right away" that State Police Youth Week was definitely for him.
Chase said he believes cadets who succeed at camp will be able to effectively lead others as well as follow when it's necessary. It's all about teamwork, he confirmed.
To learn more, visit the Pennsylvania American Legion's website at pa-legion.com. Under "programs," hover your cursor over "student programs" and select State Police Youth Week.
The Pennsylvania American Legion covers the $150-per-youth cost of the six-day camp, Reed said, meaning youths don't have to pay to attend.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.