Throughout the summer months Fort Bragg connects with the youth of surrounding communities to provide a broader understanding of the installation, military and potential careers.
“When the various youth groups connect with our Fort Bragg community, they bring so much enthusiasm and optimism,” said Jackie M. Thomas, Public Affairs Specialist, Fort Bragg Community Relations Team. “Frank Hanan, chief of United States Army Community Relations, and I strongly believe the interaction the youth have with our service members, Families and civilians encourages them to make smart decisions with their lives, become positive role models and develop the skills needed to be effective leaders.”
High Point and Cary Police departments bring students from a variety of backgrounds to Fort Bragg to teach them about leadership qualities and help provide them with focus and direction. Both police departments liase with a variety of businesses and organizations in the community with the intent of bettering the lives of the youths they are mentoring.
Each department has different focuses and goals, but both feel Fort Bragg is an experience that contributes to the betterment of the youth in their charge. The High Point Police Department and participants of Youth Leadership Academy toured Fort Bragg, June 27.
“Most of these are really high achieving students; they’re really involved in extracurricular activities. (The) basic goal of our program is to get them exposed to people and experiences that otherwise they might never have,” explained Patrick Welch, School Resource Officer, High Point Police Department.
Participating students spend two weeks with High Point SROs, receive service learning credits required for graduation and are exposed to community service and community leaders.
“The cool things that we are getting to see today, you know the Golden Knights, the parachutes and the flight simulators … That’s the big thing about bringing them to (Fort) Bragg, getting them that exposure, naturally the military has a very fine leadership structure,” said Welch.
“It’s just given us a lot more knowledge then we had before, because we really didn’t know a lot when we first came. It opened our eyes to all the different things,” said MacKenzie Stiener, YLA participant.
Students attending Cary Police Department’s Camp Confidence were seeking potential career focus from their visit to Fort Bragg, July 19.
“All of the Camp Confidence participants are going to be freshmen next year and they are exploring career opportunities, but also a mentorship program. Basically, the kids are selected specifically by the middle school SROs, as individuals who have been identified as good kids that … might benefit from getting to know the high school resources officers,” explained Welch, RSO, “Just kids that might not have the opportunity otherwise to participate in camp for the summertime for one reason or another. One kid, maybe their parents are getting divorced, or maybe one kid doesn’t have the funds to pay for it, it’s all free.”
Welch explained that the youth participating in Camp Confidence were in search of or in need of some focus and direction for their futures.
“They don’t already have a plan in place … we are looking for kids that are not necessarily straight A or hyper-focused kids, but we also want kids that will be receptive to what we are trying to achieve,” he said.
Both police department youth camps have different angles with which they and their students view these experiences, but both groups look to Fort Bragg to assist in supporting, developing and mentoring children.
“If listened to, the youth can make influential decisions within their communities and play a significant part in bridging our future,” said Thomas.