This week the Madison Police Department kicks off yet another community outreach initiative. Our Black Youth Academy (4th annual) and our Latino Youth Academy (5th annual) begin this week at the MPD Training Center after months of collaborative preparation with Fitchburg, Sun Prairie, and UW Police Departments along with the Dane County Sheriff's Department. Our thanks to the Madison, Sun Prairie, and Verona school districts for their integral role in recommending this year's participating students and to the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County which will once again be assisting us with needed transportation.
While our youth academies strive to break down barriers and to cultivate a better understanding – particularly within communities of color – regarding the role and function of police, they are intended to be inclusive and open to all kids. Through these youth academies we hope to foster trust and establish positive relationships with community youth and their families. In addition, our youth academies are designed to instill and nurture leadership qualities and provide participating youth with opportunities to challenge themselves and work together as a team.
During the academy, the students are exposed to a variety of topics and are given opportunities to apply what they've learned during scenario-based portions of the academy. The programming is as hands-on and interactive as possible, but the students get a flavor for some of the more mundane but equally important administrative paperwork that comes along with a career in policing as well. Students hear from officers about the paths that led them to a career in policing and share their personal stories and photographs with the students. This is always a highlight as it provides an opportunity for the students to see the human beings behind the badge. Two leadership awards are given each day to one male and one female student. The last day includes a graduation party for the students and families are invited to attend. During this graduation ceremony, one of the leadership award students from the week is selected to receive the overall Youth Academy Leadership Award, which is presented by Chief Koval himself. Each year we have heard from the academy students and the instructing officers alike that our initial three-day academy was not long enough. This is a testament to the value of the relationships that are established within this context and the impact of the information shared. This year, we have extended the academy to four days and we hope to run the academies for a full week each in 2016.
We are blessed to have officers that are incredibly passionate about being in this profession and who greatly respect the community that they serve. It is clear they hold the relationship between police and citizens in high regard and understand the importance of fostering these ongoing relationships. There are a lot of long hours put in by officers preparing lesson plans and developing scenarios. Behind the scenes, the week of the academy is mentally and physically exhausting for those officers making sure that things are executed as planned, that the students get the most from the experience, and have fun in the process. Yet the officers who make this event a success also make it appear effortless and it is obvious that they enjoy the time spent with the kids.
For more information on MPD Youth Academies, contact Lt. Lori Chalecki at firstname.lastname@example.org
This blog was authored by Captain Kristen Roman and Lieutenant Lori Chalecki.