RCMP youth camp an eye-opening experience

Grade 12 PSO student Alexis Thorsteinson enjoyed RCMP boot camp

The recent weeklong RCMP Youth Academy held in Williams Lake was a challenging

The recent weeklong RCMP Youth Academy held in Williams Lake was a challenging

Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School (PSO) Grade 12 student Alexis Thorsteinson had an exciting experience during the spring break when she attended the first ever Williams Lake RCMP Youth Academy.

The academy places Grade 11 and 12 students in an RCMP training environment for a mentally and physically challenging learning experience.

Thorsteinson says she decided to give the week-long RCMP training camp a go after seeing the information at her school.

“I always kind of deep down wanted to be an RCMP officer when I get older, and [thought] that would open a door to go see what it would be like.”

The training was conducted by local RCMP officers supported by firefighters, search-and-rescue members and other volunteers.

When not in academy classes at Thompson Rivers University (TRU) or on a related field trip, Thorsteinson says the students stayed in the dorm rooms at Columneetza Secondary School.

She summarizes her experience as “early mornings, lots of physical activity, lots of throwing of the beds” (that weren’t made up neatly). We learned how to be perfect with everything, and in sync with our troop mates.”

Thorsteinson says the day began at 5 a.m. when students donned a “uniform” with jacket, hat and tucked-in T-shirt with RCMP logos over track pants or shorts.

By 6 a.m., the 17-year-old was out for a half-hour run with the troop before running up stairs, doing jumping jacks, jogging some more at the gym and weight training – all before breakfast.

After a shower break and morning meal, she explains the youth were off to TRU for classes with various speakers and then did outdoor training and went on field trips.

Classes included presentations by an officer from the aboriginal police, a staff sergeant who talked about a murder case and firefighters, she says, adding their non-stop activity didn’t end until lights out at 9:30 p.m.

Thorsteinson says a highlight for her was working together with fire department, ambulance and rescue crews to take control at a mock accident.

“We had a scenario of an actual crash scene with two, totalled cars, and we had to make it like we were the police officers in charge of it and asking questions, and going to interview people.”

That experience was “really overwhelming” and “intense” with three students assigned to handle the scene and talk to everyone involved within 30 minutes, she adds.

“But you have to do it to see what they go through. Sometimes, there’s only one police officer there, and they have to go interview everyone.”

She had the opportunity to shoot guns for the first time, and tried both a shotgun and a handgun at a gun range.

“It was pretty fun. It was interesting and a thrill because I didn’t know what was going to happen or how I was going to react or feel.”

She notes learning how to handcuff people and, if necessary, put them on the ground was “really scary.”

“We learned speed cuffing and how to take them down if they’re not co-operating.”

The most memorable part was meeting the police officers, students and others involved at the academy, she says, while the most fun she had was in the classes.

“I think some [students] got their minds changed. It seemed to be really hard for them being there; just stressful, and it took a lot of energy out of them.”

Thorsteinson explains she wants to pursue more information on becoming a law-enforcement officer. “It encouraged me to work toward that goal of being an RCMP officer.”

Visiting a detachment and seeing how much paperwork police have to do was an eye-opener for her.

“You get a different respect for them, and a different view of their job.”

School District 27 Transition, Training and Trades co-ordinator Gord Armour says it’s hoped the program will be offered annually in the district.

“We have, in the past, sent some students to the Prince George [youth academy], but they restricted us on numbers…..  We just need to find some community sponsors to reduce the cost to the students, but that will come.”