Between June 21 and August 30, 2013, boys and girls from across Michigan will be graduating from the Michigan State Police Youth Leadership Academies (MSPYLA). The program engages teens, ages 14–16, from the cities of Detroit, Flint, Pontiac, and several others, in efforts to develop their leadership abilities and encourage positive relationships with law enforcement. Since the academy’s inception in 2005, MSPYLA has helped over 700 teenagers from nine different communities. The program has been regarded as an overwhelming success.
In the program, teens spend a week at the Michigan State Police Training Academy in Lansing. Students are paired—either individually or as a group—with mentoring officers, with whom they build lasting relationships. Many former students contact their officer mentors for social, academic, or personal issues.
During the week, presentations are given by Michigan State Police (MSP) specialty teams to expose the teens to possible careers in law enforcement. For example, presentations may be given by the Canine Unit, Underwater Recovery Team, or the Computer Crimes Unit to enlighten students on law enforcement jobs they may not see every day.
In addition to this kind of exposure, students engage in various training programs, including physical training, first aid, ethics, military drills, water safety, presentation skills, job interview techniques, gang awareness, emergency preparedness, leadership, and other team and character building exercises.i Together, these experiences lead to strong foundations in the areas of responsibility, respect, and trust.
Colonel Kriste Kibbey Etue of the MSP says the program provides an excellent alternative to gangs and violence in cities where the crime rates seem to be rising. Connecting with “one teen at a time,” the officers hope to push these youth into reaching their full potential. By teaching the young men and women lessons on the Keys for Character–identified as Service, Integrity, Excellence, Courtesy, and Pride–MSP hopes that the youth can apply these traits to positively impact their personal lives, homes, schools, community, state, and eventually their country. For example, cadets in the program not only tour the State Capitol and Michigan State University, they also write support letters to soldiers and their families.
As the MSP takes on another cycle of cadets this summer residents commend this shining example of a successful Community Oriented Policing initiative and look forward to additional successes.
The COPS Office