Dealing with car wrecks, drug busts, drunk drivers, middle-of-the night domestic disputes, house parties gone wild…
That’s just a taste of the job of an RCMP officer. A taste that 42 Okanagan students received while partaking in the week-long Jean Minguy Memorial RCMP Youth Academy in Vernon.
“They get a taste for everything – the good, the bad and the ugly,” said Const. Steven Schenkeveld, while facilitating a mock accident scene at the Vernon Army Camp during the May 1 to 7 academy.
“They’re kind of getting to see the highlights of what the job is about.”
They watch accident scenes played out by real firefighters having to cut a car open to try and save a victim. They learn first-hand about the effects of drinking and driving by slapping on a pair of impaired goggles and attempting to maneuver an ATV.
They even get to act out their own scenarios, ranging from middle-of-the night drug busts to assisting citizens in distress.
Schenkeveld knows first-hand how valuable the experience is, having graduated from the academy in 2001.
The Charles Bloom graduate always knew he wanted to be in the force, but the academy re-enforced his decision.
“It gives you the opportunity to make more of an informed decision.”
On the other hand, some students come through the academy and discover that perhaps the RCMP isn’t their call of duty.
“You wean out the ones that are ill-stomached,” said Schenkeveld, after students witnessed a mock accident scene involving a fatality and serious injuries.
For Pleasant Valley Secondary student Micheal King, the opportunity has helped him define his career path.
Originally, 17-year-old King was considering the army. Now, being a science whiz, he thinks forensics might be more up his alley.
Kelsey Paulin, Grade 11 W.L. Seaton Secondary student, is like Schenkeveld – her dreams of joining the force have been re-inforced.
“I kind of want to follow in my daddy’s footsteps,” said Paulin, whose father is a retired RCMP officer. She’s considering a role in traffic services or dog handling.
While Paulin and King are both grinning from ear-to-ear talking about their experience, they admit there are some tough aspects at the academy.
“The pushups,” groans Paulin, who also isn’t fond of the 4 a.m. wake-up calls. “Every time anyone does something wrong we have to do pushups as a team.”
The team approach is consistent at the academy. If one person steps out of line, everyone pays the price.
Bed checks are another example.
“Yesterday we came back and our beds were thrown across the room,” said Paulin, after one student didn’t have their hospital corners perfected.
King adds: “My mom gets after me sometimes about making my bed, but she’s not as bad as these guys.”
But after spending a week doing everything together (eating, sleeping, training, marching…), the students start to realize the value of teamwork.
And they appreciate that the skills they learn will help them in future situations working with other officers, other emergency crews and/or citizens.
The academy also instills self-worth in the youth and helps them to reach their potential.
The students stand a lot taller by the end of the week after officers have shared some important messages.
“Don’t let anybody else tell you what to do or how to do it,” said Paulin. “You need to be your own person.”
King adds: “You have to push your limits, there’s nothing you can’t do.”
The academy relies on RCMP and emergency personnel to run demonstrations and teach the students.
“Members come in on their days off and everybody plays a role,” said Schenkeveld, adding that community groups are also heavily relied on for their contributions ranging from track suits to snacks and liquids for the students.
“Without it, it wouldn’t happen.”
All 42 students successfully graduated from the program Saturday.
“The academy was another great success this year,” said Vernon RCMP spokesperson Gord Molendyk.
“Although it was a gruelling week for the students, all 42 of them graduated. Each and every person, including the facilitators, benefitted from the experience of this one-week program. Planning is already underway for next year’s academy.”