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DPD holds annual Youth Leadership Academy

The Demopolis Police Department held its annual Youth Leadership program last week, June 12-16. The Youth Leadership Academy (YLA) is a continuation of the Explorer Police Academy that provides kids with a way of learning leadership skills outside of school.

The Youth Leadership Academy began in June 2015 after Chief Tommie Reese saw the need to build a better relationship with the youth in Demopolis.

“We started the academy after noticing a disconnect between the city’s youth and the community,” said Reese. “Today, kids just want to stay inside and text on their phones. The academy brings kids together and teaches them how to work with others.”

The academy is a week-long summer program dedicated to developing the leadership skills of middle and high school students. It provides participants with challenging and meaningful experiences while building an understanding of leadership techniques and ethics, teamwork, problem-solving, and effective communication.

The mission of the academy is to enable dedicated youth to become caring and disciplined leaders in a challenging environment. It also instills confidence and courage through hands-on experience and fosters the moral character required of future leaders.

Some of the program’s activities include PT (physical training)  every morning. On the first day, participants are assessed to see where they stand on PT and then they run a challenge course to help them better their PT score.

“Some of the kids that come in will tell you upfront that they don’t like being outside. They like being in the house where it’s comfortable and cool,” said Reese. “But they can’t do that with us. They have to go outside and interact with others and have exercises in the morning.”

Other activities include: learning the history of the police department, learning how a court works and how people are incarcerated, visiting the fire station, fishing, and archery.

The goal of the Youth Leadership Academy is to continue the students’ growth process from a child to teenager to an adult leader. The motto “Leadership, discipline and honesty” is the foundation of all the academy’s daily activities. Teamwork, communication, and problem-solving skills are the core curriculum.

Chief Reese wants the kids who participate in the program to take their skills and become leaders in the community.

“We hope that the kids will take away the experience that we can communicate with each other without having to text. We want them to know that they are the future leaders and that what they do matters.”

On Friday, June 16, the participants of both sessions of this year’s Youth Leadership Academy were honored at a graduation ceremony at Rooster Hall. Individual awards were presented as well as academy completion awards.

Reese indicated during that ceremony that he is pleased with the success of the program and that positive changes could be coming for next year’s session, including renaming it the Dempolis Public Safety Department Youth Leadership Academy.

(This article originally appeared in the Wednesday, June 21, print edition of the Demopolis Times.)