Nearly 40 students from central Pennsylvania got a firsthand experience of what a career in the profession would be like during Susquehanna Valley Law Enforcement’s Camp Cadet in late June.
The weeklong summer program helps youths aged 12 to 15 build self-esteem and overcome challenges under the guidance and mentorship of police officers.
Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) troopers from across the state came together to organize Camp Cadet, which is tailored to teens from Snyder, Montour, Union and Northumberland counties.
Hosted at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, the camp covers various aspects of law enforcement, including helicopter operations, the PSP’s K-9 Unit, traffic stops and motorcycle demonstrations.
“The campers are constantly engaged in different activities throughout the day, which helps them boost their self-esteem by tackling unfamiliar tasks,” explained Nate Fisher, one of the camp organizers.
Members of the National Guard and the PSP’s Mounted Unit as well as motivational speakers on suicide prevention have all contributed to the diverse lineup of experiences offered at Camp Cadet.
From dawn till dusk, the young cadets were on the move, exploring different facets of law enforcement while building valuable skills.
Many participants chose to join Camp Cadet with a specific career path in mind. Camp participant Bryce Auman expressed his desire to become a state trooper, sharing, “I’m learning self-discipline and becoming stronger.”
Claire Reedy, another participant, shared her aspiration to become a state game warden, telling local news outlet WNEP, “I think it would be fun working with people and animals.”
In a separate Camp Cadet program held at Allegheny College and the PSP Northwest Training Center in Meadville, 97 cadets underwent training resembling that of the PSP Academy.
Sponsored by the PSP and the Kiwanis Club of Erie, Camp Cadet at Allegheny College was held to foster a deeper understanding of law enforcement and community agencies among teenagers residing in Erie, Warren, Crawford and Venango counties.
The comprehensive curriculum included self-defense training, conducting traffic stops, teamwork-building exercises and an introduction to the inner workings of a polygraph examination. Cadets were also immersed in physical activities that gradually intensify throughout the week.
Kathleen Raecke, a 14-year-old camp participant, described the experience, saying, “We’ve done a lot and learned a great deal about police training and work. It’s been a great experience, and the camp is a lot of fun.”
For 13-year-old Cole Halfast, the experience took a thrilling turn during a self-defense exercise, where he found himself face to face with a fully-padded PSP trooper, Jason Siegel. In a moment of intensity, Halfast demonstrated his newfound skills, successfully deterring the approaching “attacker.”
“It was very scary having to hit a state trooper, but it’s been a great experience overall,” Halfast shared.
Siegel, who played the role of the assailant, shared his satisfaction in witnessing the cadets grow in self-confidence throughout the week. “The structure throughout the week gets tougher. The kids are thriving off the structure, so the more you give them, the more they’re going to take from it,” he stated.
Savannah Vinkler, a former cadet from 2017, decided to return to Camp Cadet as a volunteer. Currently studying cyber security engineering at Kent State University, Vinkler sees the camp as a confidence builder and a way to gain a deeper respect for law enforcement. She says her goal in volunteering was to share her knowledge and learn from the PSP while assisting with cyber-related lessons.
The weeklong Camp Cadet program concluded at Allegheny College in late June. During the ceremony, cadets and their families gathered for graduation exercises. It was a proud moment for the young participants to reflect on their transformative experience and the new friendships they made.