A promising new partnership between the Port Alberni RCMP and School District 70 has been forged thanks to the successful completion of the inaugural RCMP Youth Camp, which concluded this week.
Despite one minor accident that took place during training, all 12 teen cadets came out of the experience with a new and better understanding of what policing is really about.
The partners now hope to garner community support to fund the expansion of this valuable program.
The twelve cadets received their certificates of completion in front of their parents, families and supporters at EJ Dunn Middle School on Thursday evening. It was a proud moment.
The cadets marched into the gymnasium in formation, were inspected by RCMP Sgt. Dave Paddock and received their certificates of completion.
Paddock praised the cadets noting the core values they have studied this week - including honesty, integrity and compassion - can "take them a long way in life."
For four days the cadests experienced an RCMP depot-like camp. They applied to take part — all have expressed an interest in pursuing some type of law enforcement as a possible future career.
The cadets participated in a wide range of activities: from marching and running, to a session at a local firing range using shotguns, rifles and 9mm handguns, to chasing after a "suspect" with a police dog and his handler, to accompanying officers in squad cars responding to mock scenarios using actors.
It was during a self-defense exercise that one cadet suffered a minor injury.
RCMP Cpl. Jen Allan said the cadet is going to be fine, and was present to receive a certificate at the closing ceremony on Thursday.
"Safety is always our first priority," Allan explained. "But some of the training is physical and that is a reality of police work."
Overall, Allan said the camp was "a tremendous success," noting there were a few minor glitches in attempting to organize so many people and so many events over a short time period, but that it was nothing the cadets would have noticed.
"In the end, we could not have been happier with our candidates," she said.
For some of these teens, this experience will solidify their interest in pursuing a future in law enforcement.
"The best part was the scenarios the volunteers and officers put together," said 17-year-old Ezra Tsai. "It gave us a lot of hands-on experience."
Tsai hopes to one day become a crown prosecutor, or possibly work in the Witness Protection Program.
RCMP Cpl. Dave Cusson said he hopes the cadets who are returning to school next year will become mentors to younger students in the city.
"Not only can they promote the camp, but they can promote health and wellness," he explained. "These are great messages."
Cusson envisions the cadets talking about their experience to younger students, encouraging them to stay in school, say no to drugs, and pursue their dreams.
Allan said local police want make the camp an annual event and possibly expand it, but added it is a costly venture.
Funding for the inaugural camp came from the detachment out of the Community Policing budget.
Allan stressed it was money well spent, but added the detachment will seek community partnerships to help fund the program in future years.