WHITE HAVEN — There were 88 participants in this year’s Camp Cadet, and all 88 finished strong.
Youngsters aged 12-15 participated in the Troop P Camp Cadet Program at Camp Kresge in White Haven from Aug. 9-14. The week-long program features participants, male and female, from Luzerne, Sullivan, Bradford and Wyoming counties.
State Police Trooper and camp director Tom Kelly said this was the first year everybody who participated finished the program.
“This was the first group that we had where to this point nobody has gone home for injuries, illness or being homesick,” said Kelly. “Every year we have somebody who is homesick or has discipline problems, but we had none of that this year. We started with 88 cadets and finished with 88.”
The purpose of the Camp Cadet program is to give candidates a chance to get a taste of what life in the police academy is like.
Kelly said it also gives youngsters a different insight into police officers themselves.
“Most interactions we have with kids are negative,” said Kelly. “Everytime they see us, it’s either they’re in trouble, a family member is in trouble, somebody is being arrested or a notification of a bad traffic accident. This camp enables them to come up, get a feel of what it’s like to go through a police academy and understand the role of law enforcement officers, so when they see something on TV or in the newspaper, they can know, after this camp, they can say, ‘They’re doing that because of this’ or ‘This happened because of that.’ It gives them a better understanding and a more positive relationship with the law enforcement.”
Some cadets admitted they were skeptical to attend the camp, but 16-year-old Harley Slater of Duryea said she was always looking forward to it.
“I wanted to see what it was like and I enjoy the outdoors,” she said.
Activities and drills the candidates participate in included physical training such as running, swimming, push-ups, rock climbing and high rope climbing. They also learn how to handle firearms.
When it came to the physical activities, some of the cadets said it was harder than expected.
“They push you to an extent that, unless you are a daily exerciser, you are not used to at all,” said 15-year-old Avoca resident Kerry Shamnoski.
Kelly said the hardest part for the cadets is the first day. Campers wake up at 5:45 in the morning to go on a two-mile run and then do multiple push-ups and sit ups, all before 7 a.m.
Kelly said campers experience the tough schedule together — a bonding technique that can help battle homesickness.
“The culture shock gets them and they get homesick,” Kelly said. “They’re 12 and 13-year-old kids who haven’t been away from home yet, so this gives them a chance to associate with other kids who are homesick and let them know they’re not alone. It helps them get through it.”
The cadets improved each day. Many youngsters said they learned a lot about themselves, and each other, as the week progressed.
“We learned a lot about team work and learning to trust each other,” said 16-year-old Tyler Walsh of Avoca.
The cadets also observed various demonstrations, including the Wildlife Conservation officers tagging a 150-pound black bear.
The officers tranquilized the bear, tagged it and pulled out a tooth, a method used to help determine the bear’s age.
The tagging of the bear will help the game commission keep track of the animal when it is released back into the wild, making sure it stays out of trouble and is safe.
Conservation officer Philip White said the only way the cadets would ever have to worry about tagging a wild animal is if they went through a special training, but said it was good to teach them the process.
“Knowledge is power when it comes to knowing about anything,” said White. “Our primary message we wanted to deliver was that bears in Pennsylvania are not man-eaters; they’re not aggressive. The earlier age these kids understand about black bears and black bear behavior, the better. They know how to deal with a possible encounter with a bear and what we do and how we look after the animals.”
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher