For an investment of $20 and one week, parents can ship a teenager off to camp with the police and get back a disciplined, motivated young adult. That sounds a lot less fun than it is, former campers would say.
The 2014 camp, the ninth put on by the Illinois State Police in District 11, will be from July 13 through 19 at Principia College in Elsah. There, about 50 metro-east teens between 13 and 16 will attend everything from safety classes to gun and drug presentations. Trooper Calvin Dye Jr. of the Illinois State Police says the Team Illinois Youth Police Camp is an experience that stays with teens.
Graduating cadets agree.
"The counselors really put it in you, that they believe in you," said former cadet Lucas Ford.
Ford, now 23 and a security guard at the Casino Queen, says he was a shy but athletic 15 year old at his first Youth Police Camp.
"It really helped me solidify what I wanted to do," Ford said. He went on to become a cadet mentor and later a counselor at the weeklong camp. He has a degree in sociology from McKendree University with an emphasis in criminal justice.
Not everyone attending the camp plans on joining law enforcement.
"Some kids are recommended by juvenile judges, some simply have aspirations of becoming a cop or joinging the military, and come since it's paramiltary," Dye said. "Some are struggling in school and at home with structure and authority, so camp is beneficial for all, no matter how you ended up at camp."
The camp stresses morning physical training and days of classes. "Cadets" are challenged with "Teamwork, Commitment and Pride" while attending presentations from fire departments, the tactical response team, and K-9 units. The week includes first-responder training and field trips, as well as a county coroner's presentation.
"At first I thought it was for bad kids, like a scared straight," said Otis Miller. But a relative in law enforcement persuaded Miller otherwise for his daughter.
"She's not even thinking about a career in police," Miller said.
He said Janelle wanted to come home that first night.
"By the end, you see videos of them on different field trips and swimming and different things, just kids being kids," he said.
Janelle Miller, 17, is volunteering this summer while on break from Rosati-Kain High School in St. Louis. The East St. Louis teen made new friends at the camp, saying that no electronics were allowed during camp so there was a mad rush the next week to get on Facebook and text.
Team-building skills is part of the camp philosophy and built into much of the class work and physical training.
"They would have drills to challenge us, it wasn't so much to complete them as it was to you giving your best effort, ... trying to push yourself," Janelle Miller said.
Want to go?
Get an application by calling 618-973-3050 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Applications are due June 23.
Ages: 13, 14, 15, 16
Contact reporter Mary Cooley at email@example.com or call 618-239-2535.