An RCMP “boot camp” opened up for Vancouver Island youth in Port Alberni this week.
The Central Island RCMP Youth Camp runs July 4–7, and gave students instructions on law, police tactics, social skills, physical training, self-defense and more. The camp involved six partners: three RCMP detachments, and three school districts (Port Alberni, Oceanside and Nanaimo). 33 cadets took part in the camp.
This is the third camp in Port Alberni in the last three years. The plan now is to hold camps every two years, possibly rotating the host community.
“The next time likely will be in Parksville or Qualicum, or Nanaimo,” said School District 70 career education coordinator Greg Freethy.
Freethy added that hosting the camp in Port Alberni over the past few years has been a great experience. “ADSS has the absolute best facility,” he said. “It meets the needs of the camp. It’s got everything we need right in a central location.”
Port Alberni RCMP Cpl. Amelia Hayden agreed. “I think it’s great that we’re able to promote what Port Alberni has. We’re really in a position to demonstrate what the RCMP has, in terms of sections of work,” she said.
From a school perspective, the camp provides a Work Experience 12 credit. Students had to go through an interview process and had to meet a physical training requirement in order to be selected for the camp.
“The majority of these students will earn a credit in work experience,” said Freethy. “Even better is how good this will look on a resume.”
Most of the students participating already had an interest in the RCMP services. “This camp will be probably confirm whether or not this is something they want to pursue,” Freethy added.
School District 69 career education coordinator Steve Stahley said, “There are 175 different vocations in the RCMP. It becomes way broader. You get to see all these different characteristics of people. If you’re really scientifically oriented, then the forensics might be for you.”
It is also a networking opportunity. “Students can meet students with similar interests from other areas,” said Hayden. “It’s neat seeing them come together and really start to jell. They’re learning from each other, and learning from us.”
Nicolas Lozier-Tilkin, a student at Kwalikum Senior Secondary School, said he took the opportunity to travel to Port Alberni for the camp because of his passion for law enforcement.
“This gives us a chance to look into it a little bit more,” he said. “I can say that after this, it makes me want to do it even more. Before, I didn’t realize all these different units were involved.”
Audis Wallman, a student at ADSS, agreed, “For me, this is where life has been leading me. I’ve wanted to be involved in the K-9 unit since I was 10 years old. It was open this year, and I wanted to get on it as soon as I could.”
He added, “It’s been extremely fun so far.”
High school students weren’t the only ones gaining experience from the opportunity. A couple of Vancouver Island University students in the criminology program were volunteering with the camp to gain experience in their field. Recent ADSS graduate Ryan Wong was also taking part in the camp, but he participated from behind a camera. His job was to create promotional materials for RCMP youth camps, and to create a keepsake for the cadets who were involved.
“I got some pretty cool aerial shots earlier from the helicopter,” he said. “And I’m hoping to get some from the water, too.”
Cpl. Dave Cusson works for the Strategic Prevention Services in Nanaimo, and was one of the original camp creators for the Alberni Valley. He is actively involved in creating the syllabus, and in keeping the camp consistent and engaging.
The camp is largely scenario-based, with students experiencing hands-on training, as well as classroom learning. There was one master scenario that runs through the whole camp, and students also practiced common policing scenarios with actors and actresses, and use the training they’ve been given to make mock arrests.
“It’s been really great. We’ve had a number of camp graduates go on and join the RCMP,” said Cusson. He said other graduates have gone onto fire, ambulance, armed forces and other serving capacities. “The stuff they learn goes on beyond the camp. They develop the skill sets and resources for future jobs and school applications. The camp is not just a standalone piece.”