Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP Const. Steven Schenkeveld instructs Seaton student Kelsey Paulin during the 2010 Jean Minguy Memorial Youth Academy at the Vernon Army Camp.

Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP Const. Steven Schenkeveld instructs Seaton student Kelsey Paulin during the 2010 Jean Minguy Memorial Youth Academy at the Vernon Army Camp.

Academy puts youth to the test

No video or stories from officers can truly prepare a candidate for life at the RCMP six-month training depot in Regina.

No video or stories from officers can truly prepare a candidate for life at the RCMP six-month training depot in Regina.

But a week at the Jean Minguy Memorial Youth Academy in Vernon can, and Const. Steven Schenkeveld knows that better than anyone.

Schenkeveld, a Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP officer, attended the academy in its early stages in 2001 as a student at Charles Bloom Secondary in Lumby.

“I think I always knew what I wanted to do (RCMP), and the Minguy academy prepares kids for the depot experience,” said Schenkeveld. “You can watch videos or hear about it word of mouth, but the academy puts the student in the depot world.”

Designed to attract aspiring police officers, the Jean Minguy Memorial Youth Academy gives Grade 11 and 12 students insight into what depot training is like.

Everything from early-morning call-outs, making and remaking their beds in the middle of the night, eating as a troop.

Schenkeveld, posted to the local detachment’s traffic division, now gives back to the academy as an instructor. He even helped at the academy before getting into the RCMP as an actor playing out police scenarios.

“Last year, we gave the students scenarios for break-and-enter, theft, mischief and having someone drunk in public,” said Schenkeveld. “I was the traffic facilitator, mainly giving the students the traffic aspect of our work.”

The camp also included a police service dog and handler, who, in a mock situation, uncovered drugs hidden in a commercial vehicle.

The academy, named for the popular Vernon RCMP constable who drowned on duty in Okanagan Lake in 2005, will run April 29 to May 5 at the Vernon Army Camp.

Students are housed in the camp’s barracks.

While the camp is aimed at attracting students who want to pursue a career in law enforcement, it’s also open to students who want a challenge.

“We want to draw them outside their comfort zone, and make them realize, ‘hey, I can do this,’” said Vernon RCMP school liaison officer Kathy Szoboticsanec. “Many of the students amaze me with the things they do at the school, in the community and the other things they’re involved in.”

Interested students go through a stringent application process which includes filling out the application process, going to a series of interview questions and a fitness test.

Szoboticsanec works with career coordinators in the secondary schools and look at the students’ attendance, discipline and how they’re contributing to the community as a volunteer.

“Once they go through all of the hoops, it’s certainly rewarding,” said Szoboticsanec. “It’s a life-changing experience.”

The academy is chaired by Terry Pakenham, who Szoboticsanec credits for doing a lot of behind the scenes activity.

The cost for the academy, which is open to students from throughout the Okanagan, is $250.

Last year’s academy drew 42 students.

Any interested student can check with their school’s career coordinator, or get more information on the academy at www.sd22.bc.ca.