Brocklehurst Middle School has been turned into an RCMP training facility this week as the 2023 Youth Academy returns to the Tournament Capital.
Thirteen grade 11 and 12 students are running drills, sleeping in barracks, participating in daily physical activity, and learning in classrooms over a six-day period for spring break.
“This is an immersive education experience for the students,” said Kamloops RCMP Cpl. Dana Napier.
Napier said the academy is modelled after Depot, the RCMP’s training academy in Regina.
“So the Depot style is really built on living on campus, and it's about working together as a team — we started that right from the start," Napier said.
"And it's important to have that team environment because when we're out working in the field, it's the same thing. We all work together as a team."
The program exposes participants to a variety of career opportunities in law enforcement by bringing in presenters from different agencies.
“We have conservation coming in, corrections, the sheriff's, we have Crown counsel coming in," Napier said.
"And then we also have all of our RCMP partners that come in as well, such as our emergency response team, our TAC troop, our forensic identification section, and then other units that would be supportive of frontline and general duty policing."
Participants in the program come from Kamloops and across B.C. — from as far away as Hope and Quesnel.
The academy allows participants who are interested in law enforcement to get a taste of a career in policing.
Jessie Charters, a participant from Kamloops, said she’s been interested in becoming an RCMP officer for years.
“I’ve kind of done my schooling through that idea," she said.
"But I wanted to see if I truly want to do this before I made the commitment to go to the Depot."
Preston Kirsh, a participant from Quesnel, said he was excited for the academy because he’d always been attracted to a career in policing.
“Other [careers] just didn't seem like exciting," he said. "I never wanted like a constant desk job. Sure we do desk work, but it's never the same job every day."
Alison Peraltea, a participant from Hope, said she was attracted to the program to explore career opportunities.
“Well, I was interested because I want to have a new experience in my life. Like, I want to figure out if I really want to do this. And yeah, it's been a really good experience,” said Peraltea.
The participants start each day by waking up at 6 a.m to do physical exercise, followed by breakfast. The rest of the day is filled with classes, academic learning and physical training before dinner and some free time.
The participants said they had been enjoying the physical training, the academic learning, and the presenters as well.
Eric Marshall, a participant from Kamloops, said he's been surprised by the amount of time spent in the classroom.
"I am pleasantly surprised that there is a lot of academic learning here," he said. "I thought it was going to be a lot of physical exercise. It is not nearly as much as I was expecting."
The participants' physical training includes learning police tactics.
“Yesterday we did handcuffing," Marshall said. "It was fun — I got arrested 14 times.”
Sgt. Brenda Winpenny, media relations officer from CFSEU BC, the provincial anti-gang unit, visited the academy to present information on gangs and organized crime in BC to the participants.
“We want to make sure that the kids here at the at the youth academy are exposed to all the different types of policing efforts that there are throughout the province,” said Winpenny.
“Having been invited up here today gives us the ability to educate them about not just regular police work that you do out on the street as far as responding to calls, but as well as some of the other work that we do throughout the province.”
The participants said the team bonding and environment has been enjoyable.
“It's just about supporting each other and making sure everybody's getting through,” Marshall said.
“It's good. It's judgment free and I feel like I can be myself.”
Participant Ethan Thompson said most of the participants had already formed a close bond after only a few days.
“So if we do something, we have to work as a troop. Cooperation is huge. We are very reliant on each other. It's an adult learning space. So we have to learn how to do this ourselves,” he said.
“It's a great experience. We work as a family — it's going to be pretty hard to say goodbye to each other once we're done.”