During the summer, girls, boys and cops have one priority: Fun.
The Police Youth Academy provides just that with tours of the police and fire stations and of cruisers, a visit to Hanscom to see the medical flights, a trip to the courthouse, a visit from the Massachusetts State Police Mounted Unit and various speakers. Oh, and physical activity every morning. And a paintball day.
The program, now in its third year, meets for a week in the summer. The middle school students — 24 this year — already know the two school resource officers, Detectives Caroline Paladino and Derek Rodriguez, who work with the program.
“They make it a positive experience for the kids. The kids have a lot of fun with this,” said Concord Police Department Lt. Brian Goldman.
The program’s mission includes working on motivation and cooperation while having fun building relationships, said Sgt. Tia Manchuso, a former school resource officer who runs the academy.
It works: “We’ve had really good feedback,” she said.
One dad said his son is going to Keene State University and will work toward a career in public safety. A girl was in tears one year because the program was ending, Manchuso said.
The summer academy and the presence of school resource officers help break down barriers, Goldman said.
“They look at you more not as a police officer but a friend or mentor — someone they can turn to,” he said. “It’s priceless… It’s a very, very good thing.”
The summer program is provided free of charge to families and has a waiting list. Kids bring their lunch and are picked up and dropped off at the station each day.
Many of the activities cost nothing and Concord Transportation helps out, Goldman said.
No special talents or abilities are required to be part of the program. “We can make accommodations,” Manchuso said. “We don’t exclude anybody.”