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Junior Sheriffs Academy students ‘training today to protect tomorrow’

By Rebecca Rider

rebecca.rider@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Fellow campers cheered on Nykalia Lancaster from the sidelines as she weaved through an obstacle course tucked away in a quiet, wooded corner of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College’s north campus.

Following the instructions of nearby sheriff’s deputies, Lancaster sprang from a sheriff’s car, ran laps, raced up and down sets of stairs, muscled her way through a door, completed push-ups and pull-ups, and dragged a limp camper away from a vehicle.

“Good job. Pace yourself,” one deputy called out as Lancaster entered the second half of the course.

“It’s a lot harder than what it looks,” she said afterward.

Lancaster is one of about a dozen campers taking part in Junior Sheriffs Academy offered this week by the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office. It’s the first year the local law enforcement agency has offered this camp, Deputy William Walker said.

And it’s free, thanks to a grant from the Salisbury Community Foundation.

As they waited their turn for the obstacle course, the campers lined up on a gravel path, chatting and shouting encouragement. They all wore a shirt that says “Training today to protect tomorrow.”

Many are considering a career in law enforcement, including Lancaster.

The recent A.L. Brown High School graduate hopes to join the Kannapolis Police Department as an officer sometime in the future. The academy was close enough that it allowed her to keep working at her part-time job while also giving her the experience she’d need for the future, she said.

The camp was a good chance for young people to see law enforcement in a different light and to see the sorts of things they go through each day.

“It kind of stops the violence, even if it’s just one generation,” she said.

Each day of the weeklong camp begins with an hour of physical activity, Walker said. Later, the students have classes on crime scene investigation, hazardous materials, explosives and report writing.

The camp follows basic law enforcement training — a four-month course of study all law enforcement officers in the state must complete.

“So what we’re doing with this is giving them an abbreviated version of that in a week,” Walker said.

All classes are taught by a law enforcement officer with experience in teaching.

“It’s fun,” said student Kamran Smith.

Smith and fellow camper Fransisco Serda both said they have enjoyed the classes, particularly CPR demonstrations and a class on explosives and bombs.

“We even set one off,” Serda said.

Serda said he joined the camp because he wanted to see what it is like to work in law enforcement.

“I’m interested in being an officer,” he said.

The camp was offered to students in middle and high school, though Walker said most of those attending are in the ninth and 10th grades.

It’s meant to be a more serious look at law enforcement than the Sheriff’s Office’s G.R.E.A.T. camp. Hopefully, Walker said, by Friday the students will be able to say for sure whether or not they want to pursue a career in law enforcement.

“We’re kind of trying to recruit the next generation of law enforcement, I guess you could say,” he said.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.

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