VERNON - Not every teen who enrolls in the week-long, Depot-like RCMP Youth Academy in Vernon becomes a police officer. For some, the early mornings, mandatory exercise, daily chore of making their bed, and getting woken up in the middle of the night for mock disturbance calls is not for them.
But for 2002 Charles Bloom Secondary grad Steven Schenkeveld, it only solidified his interest in becoming a cop.
“It was an eye opener for all the different things available in the force as far as different units and sections,” Schenkeveld says. “I think a lot of people come in and are enlightened by it.”
As a teen, Schenkeveld remembers dressing up as a cop for Halloween and going on a ride along with a family friend in the traffic services unit (the same officer who taught the fitness section of the youth academy). He attended the Jean Minguy Memorial RCMP Youth Academy before it was renamed as such. At that time, Jean Minguy was still an instructor at the camp. Minguy died while on duty on Okanagan Lake in 2005 and the academy was renamed in his honour.
Now, some years later, things have come full circle. Schenkeveld is now a constable with the Vernon RCMP. He’s working on the same traffic services unit as the family friend from his youth and he’s giving back to the camp that taught him so many life skills. As one of the academy’s organizers, he now gets to see the camp from a new perspective.
“You see people come out of their shell,” he says. “It’s neat to see how much people can develop in one week.”
While the academy’s original vision when established 16 years ago was to provide a foundation for prospective police officers, it has evolved into something much more, says organizer Const. Kathy Szoboticsanec.
“It’s become (a vision) of growth,” Szoboticsanec says.
She says she could write a book on all the little success stories she’s witnessed over the years.
“For me, the most rewarding part of doing this is the kids that come back a year or two after and a lot of the things that we did at the camp have become lifestyle choices. Whether it be they continue to run every day, or have completely embarked on a fitness program—those to me are the rewards of this. I don’t think too many continue to make their bed every day though,” she says with a chuckle.
Students spend their week sleeping in the historic barracks of the Vernon Army Camp, participating in simulated scenarios, and learning about different types of police work from traffic services to the canine unit. They also get four credits towards their high school diploma.
Tom Williamson, school district 22 coordinator for trades and apprenticeship says the camp teaches students an array of life skills they can take to any career, not just one with the RCMP.
“From an educational perspective, this camp is to offer students something they will never get in their lives again,” Williamson says. “You get a one-week experience that will follow you the rest of your life in terms of your own personal development.”
This year’s camp runs from April 26 to May 2. Applications are available on the School District 22 website and are due this Friday, Feb. 6.
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