The Stone Memorial High School auditorium will be abuzz with police activity Friday evening – in a good way. Participants in this summer’s annual Sheriff’s Youth Academy will be graduating from the program. 1057 News caught up with Homestead Elementary School Resource Officer Gary Howard this afternoon to discuss the program, which is now in its fourth year in Cumberland County.
“We’ll be graduating 177 cadets, from fourth to 12th grade,” he said. “It’s pretty cool.”
The ceremony will last about an hour and a half and will include a slideshow video with highlights from the program.
“They get to do a lot of different things,” Howard said, noting that SROs from all the county and city schools take part in the academy. “They have a SWAT day, they learn how to do extractions from vehicles. They do traffic stops like real officers. They work a crime scene, they see a K-9 take a bite out of a person.” The kids also get active-shooter training, plus learn about the dangers of bullying, “then they learn how the criminal-justice system works, from arrest to court,” said Howard.
He said the Cumberland County sheriff’s office has run the program for four years. “When Casey Cox came in as sheriff in 2014, he asked me if there’s anything in particular I’d like to see happen,” Howard said, “and I told him I’d like to do the Sheriff’s Youth Academy.”
The first year, the youth academy hosted 62 cadets, from fifth through 12th grades. “We’ve tripled almost since the first year,” Howard said proudly. “It’s a really good project and it’s given us an opportunity to make a difference in children’s lives.”
Howard said the Sheriff’s Youth Academy is a 501(c)3 organization and they have sponsors who donate funds, so underprivileged kids get to participate alongside kids from well-to-do families “and they’re all taking part in the same activities. When you see that happen, that’s what makes it so important. They’re just as equal as those that have the ability to pay for something,” he said. “And when they go back to school, they become friends with people from different social structures.”
The ceremony, which begins at 6 p.m. Friday, July 27, 2018, is open to the public.