Students interested in law enforcement can get a small taste of what it’s like to go through the 24-week RCMP training by attending the RCMP Youth Academy in mid March.
There are 50 students from various school districts who attend the academy in Chilliwack, but the largest contingent by far is usually students from the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district.
In spring 2012, Chelsea Carr attended the academy during her last year at Maple Ridge Secondary before graduating.
At that point, she was considering a career in corrections, and her counsellor recommended she try the youth academy to explore the field of law enforcement.
The first few days were “hell,” Carr said, with the wrath of the disciplinary officer on all the cadets. The weather was cold, but that didn’t stop them from going outside on runs and other training.
But the training instilled the importance of teamwork on the cadets.
As they went through their morning routine, they were all careful to behave for the sake of the group.
“If there was one kid moving around and talking, we’d all get shafted,” Carr said.
While the week-long academy was “scary,” Carr said it was a good experience to go through.
“It gave me a better understanding of the police,” she said.
The cadets worked with the canine team, forensics, and the tactical team. Much of the training was done in scenarios to simulate actual police work.
The process to get accepted is rigorous and includes an application package, an interview, background check, and a fitness test.
Zachary Wyant has been preparing for this spring’s youth academy by learning his 10-codes and his phonetic alphabet.
The youth academy is meant to mirror the experience that RCMP-in-training go through in Depot Division RCMP Training Academy, with rigorous physical training, strict discipline, and a lot of learning.
The RCMP Youth Academy is “very structured,” said Cpl. Alanna Dunlop with the Ridge Meadows RCMP. But the training is what prepares officers for the job where “you have to think on your feet.”
“There’s a lot of danger when you’re in... the field,” Dunlop said.
The youth at the academy have to learn to manage their time, as the program is crammed with learning and training.
”The days are long and full of activity,” said Cpl. Alanna Dunlop.
Ron Lancaster, partnership program coordinator with School District 42, has been involved in the RCMP Youth Academy since its inception 14 years ago.
This has been a challenging year to raise the funds to subsidize the youth academy, said Lancaster.
The youth academy has received support from local service organizations, including both local Rotary clubs, the Kiwanis, the Lions, and the legion.
The money raised helps pay for the camp, which costs $800 – students who attend, though, only pay $400 for the week-long training.
Chelsea’s mother, school trustee Susan Carr, pointed out that the $400 subsidy for each student helps keep costs low for families.
“We want to keep it going,” Susan said. “It’s really a great thing, a great opportunity… it would be a shame not to be a participating district.”
While her experience was intense at the youth academy, Chelsea felt it was a good life experience.
“I think it made me a bit stronger… [teaching] me that I can deal with a lot more than I thought,” Chelsea said.