Troopers hope to build bridges with youngsters through Camp Cadet
MANOR — A group of 50 teens plans to call Lenape Technical School home for the week during their stay at the Pennsylvania State Police's Camp Cadet.
The weeklong summer camp, in its 39th year in Armstrong County, familiarizes students, ages 12 to 15, with police operations, physical fitness and teamwork, said Trooper Al Santucci, Camp Cadet director.
“Our regimine mimmicks what we go through at the Pennsylvania State Police Academy,” Santucci said.
The campers stay at Lenape Tech for the week, participate in morning fitness activities and lectures on police procedures, and take part in special programming, which includes a trip to a shooting range.
The program is sponsored by the state police but uses no tax dollars. Instead, it is funded through donations and fundraising efforts, and staffed by volunteers, Santucci said.
According to the Camp Cadet website, it costs $175 per student to attend the weeklong camp.
Santucci said volunteers work with each of the campers in hopes of building their self-esteem and confidence.
“When kids come to the camp, they're apprehensive, unsure of themselves and don't know if they can do things we are asking them to do,” Santucci said. “But we push them to do their best to perservere and overcome their fears.”
Volunteers Steve Levcik and Jim Stewart, both of Ford City, began volunteering at the camp during its inaugural run in 1974.
Levcik said most kids coming into the camp show some level of apprehension around police officers, which is eased by their interactions with the troopers during Camp Cadet.
“We try to teach kids a lot of discipline and give them perspective on law enforcement,” Levcik said. “We just want them to know the police are their friends and are there to help them, which is why Camp Cadet was started in the first place.”
Levcik said he believes the camp makes a difference in each of its campers' lives, often helping them mature.
“We give them a lot of work and things to do, and you see them come in as boys and girls but leave as young men and young ladies,” Levcik said. “It's only a week, but seeing that transformation is really rewarding.”
Camp Cadet's graduation ceremony is at 7 p.m. Friday at Lenape Tech.
Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or firstname.lastname@example.org.