From June 19-23, the 2023 Teen Public Safety Academy, hosted by the Woodstock police and fire departments, immersed teens ages 13-18 in a comprehensive series of educational classes. Designed to provide teens with insights into the world of public safety, this opportunity enhanced participants’ understanding of various aspects of police and fire professions and empowered them to become tomorrow’s heroes.
Throughout the week-long course, participants delved into a range of engaging topics, including CRASE (civilian response to active shooter) seminars, criminal investigation procedures, patrol operations, K-9 demonstrations, traffic unit protocols, use of force guidelines, Cherokee County E-911 operations, mental health awareness, as well as fire safety and prevention measures and more. From learning tactical medical skills to understanding the complexities of drunken driving incidents, the teens absorbed knowledge through a hands-on approach taken by the instructors.
Participants were challenged to assess crime scenes, analyze accident reconstructions and even participate in a judgmental shooting simulator, allowing them to gain a better understanding of the intricate decision-making processes and the responsibilities faced by law enforcement and emergency service professionals.
For many participants, the experience at the Woodstock Public Safety Academy was transformative. Eli, 13, mentioned the thrill of learning tactical and medical skills, while Grant, also 13, emphasized the value of making new friends, discovering new interests and the importance of learning. Sophia, 12, enjoyed learning about traffic and crashes, and Kira, 15, highlighted how the academy changed her perception of law enforcement and the impact it had on broadening her knowledge base.
The program allowed the teens to see firsthand the dedication and professionalism of the men and women who serve their community. With the help of Community Outreach Officer JoAn Willingham and Public Information Officer Brittany Page, they shared key takeaways with ALM.
What did the experience mean to you?
“The experience was really important to me, and it meant a lot. I chose to apply to the Woodstock Teen Academy because of my interest in criminal law. Not only did this program give us a view of the field, but it also gave a more in-depth idea of the world of emergency services.” — Joshua, 14
“(It) was nice to talk to many different people in the criminal justice field. I would like to work in this field after college, and this gave me a good idea of possible career options.” — Kayden, 18
“This experience was very interesting. This meant so much because I got to learn so much about what I wanna do in the future.” — Tristan, 13
“I got to learn so many cool things. I’ve never been interested in law enforcement, but now I’m very. I hope we can do this again because it was fun!” — Sarah, 14
“It means a lot to me that I got the experience and training on how to protect myself and others. It also means that I know how to act in certain situations.” — Vivienne, 14
“The experience meant that I could learn stuff about each unit and what they do. It also changed my mind to be on a K-9 or SWAT unit in the future instead of a criminal investigator.” — Zsolt, 15
What did you learn that was most memorable?
“Assessing a crime scene. We were told to run a car crash with little to no information. We had to figure out why and what happened. I ended up ‘arresting’ the driver for a ‘DUI’ and ‘vehicular homicide.’ This was one of the best hands-on learning experiences.” — Kira, 15
“One of the most memorable things I learned was the process that police officers must go through in split-second decisions to determine their use of force while also running the risk of losing their own lives.” — Joshua, 14
“You can talk about Woodstock with a PowerPoint all day. But when you take us to the places we’re talking about — having the district attorney talk to us herself, going to the fire station and 911 dispatch office, showing us real-life body cams of people in our community — is what matters the most.” — Julissa, 17
“Everything was very helpful and informative, but the most memorable thing I learned was the information about crime scene investigation. That is something I am most interested in.” — Kayden, 18
“I liked all of it, but I think the judgmental shooting simulator was my favorite.” — Lukas, 15
“I really enjoyed the accident reconstruction. It was really fun to see what it’s like to be in that situation.” — Sarah, 14
“I learned how to use a tourniquet, which I can still feel on my leg. One of the most memorable things I did was use a water hose off of a fire truck. I will also remember how all the officers were kind and helpful toward us all.” — Vivienne, 14
“It was very fun and educational; I enjoyed it a lot. (I also learned) there are a lot of drugs trafficked and sold around here.” — Jackson, 14
“I would have to say JPS, which stands for judgmental pistol simulator, and the K-9 unit. SWAT was extremely informational and enjoyable to learn about. I think I would like to be a Blue Team in the SWAT organization.” — Colton, 13