MSHP Youth Academy connects youth with law enforcement

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Mo. - The Missouri State Highway Patrol is hosting its Youth Academy at Sunnyhill Adventures Center in Dittmer this week.  Some 30 youth, ages 16-18, ditched their cell phones and are participating in a wide range of activities with members of law enforcement.

“I hope that I could accomplish discipline, ethics, morality, respect and accountability in this program,” said participant Moses Momand.

Academy participant Christine Bui said she was looking for “More leadership skills, more discipline and to learn about my ethics.”

Some of the youth are interested in a law enforcement career.  Others hope the team building skills they learn will help in whatever career path they take.  They wake up early each day and start with exercise.

“Every morning we do the morning fitness regimen with them,” said Missouri State Highway Patrol Sgt. Bob Parr.  “We eat with the youth.  We do a lot of mentorship throughout the week to build these positive relationships with the youth.”

Parr said participants are also exposed to various aspect of law enforcement

“It allows them to see different avenues in law enforcement including SWAT, canine, marine operations and our aircraft division,” he said.

Participants also have the chance to see some of the challenges law enforcement faces.

“They get to play the role of the officer and stop the vehicle and kind of see what it looks like from the officer’s perspective walking up to a car,” said Missouri State Highway Patrol Trooper Richard Stewart.

This year marked the 2nd annual academy.  Parr and Steward said the feedback from last year was extremely positive.  Parr said an administrator at an area school called him to say one of the participants stood up for law enforcement during a discussion when other students were talking poorly about police.

“This kid stuck up for the police and said, I hung out with them for a week.  They’re not that bad of people,” said Parr.

“They notice that this is a profession, the career we’ve chosen but it’s not all-encompassing of who we are,” said Steward. “We’re people too.”

The camp is free and operated without any cost to taxpayers thanks to community donations.