Sam Weatherly and Skyann Braun are junior high students interested in doing something to help the community.
They both figured the best way for a 13-year-old to help the community is to start by making a difference in their school. They, along with seven other students, entered the Black Knights Police Association Youth Police Academy to learn how to do that.
Delphine Baldwin-Casey, a retired Youngstown police officer, on Monday handed all nine of the seventh- and eighth-grade students in the program certificates of completion and gift certificates for Subway Restaurant.
The ceremony was at Volney Rogers Academy, the middle school on the city’s West Side.
“I learned that you can always stop something from happening before it happens,” Sam said. “There is always something you can do.”
Skyann is not sure what she ultimately will do in the community, but she said the youth police academy has given her some things to think about — and she made some good friends in the process.
Baldwin-Casey officiated over the Youth Police Academy for several years in the past when it operated through the Youngstown Police Department. The program ended when she retired in 2009, but she has been eager to revitalize it.
Now, under the wing of the Black Knights Police Association, she has been able to make the program part of an after-school curriculum for kids in the Youngstown City Schools who want to participate.
The BKPA was established in 1975 to help prevent corruption and discrimination, improve relationships with the community, and serve as a conduit in the recruitment of black police officers.
Baldwin-Casey said the program is perfect as an after-school activity because a lot of children are left to fend for themselves in the hours after school until parents make it home from work. She said police have long known that those hours are when there is a sharp increase in youth-related crimes and problems.
“Our aim is to reduce the violent crimes being committed by young people between the ages of 12 and 25,” she said. “This is the goal of the police academy no matter where it is conducted.”
Participants in the program learn the definition of crime and the types of crimes, often through rules they have imposed on themselves for the class. The academy curriculum included understanding the criminal justice system, what to do when stopped by police, and dealing with bullying.
“What I want them to take away from this is to be responsible young adults. I am teaching that you are rewarded for good things and you have to work for what you want,” Baldwin-Casey said. “I want them to know there are consequences for their actions, good and bad.”
Baldwin-Casey said she has received requests for information on the Youth Police Academy from principals at various schools, and she anticipates seeing the program expand.