Students Explore Law Enforcement at Youth Citizen’s Police Academy

“1…2…3…4…5…6…7…”

A couple dozen students count compressions out loud as they practice CPR on manikins.

The class is part of the Fayetteville Police Department’s Youth Citizen’s Police Academy (YCPA). The academy, held every summer for students in 5th through 12th grade, is designed to give youth a chance to provide insight into solving issues facing today’s teenager and learn about police operations. The academy, which has a waitlist, is fairly competitive and requires an application and two letters of recommendation.

On this particular morning, the students follow prompts from school resource officers and an instructional video as they learn about providing CPR on adults, children and infants, using AEDs and pocket masks, and steps to take when someone is choking.

“OK, everybody stand up and make a fist and put it halfway between your belly button and diaphragm. Now put your other hand on top and thrust,” School Resource Officer Corporal Thomas Reed instructs during a choking exercise. “See how that makes you want to throw up?”

This is just one class in the two-week session designed for 7th through 12th graders; their younger 5th and 6th grade peers take a one-week session. The sessions include classes on accident reconstruction, crime scene analysis, juvenile and Arkansas laws, physical fitness training, alcohol and drug awareness and more.

“I wanted to join the academy to get more information about law enforcement and what they do on a daily basis,” said Meredith Gheen, a student going into 10th grade who has interest in a public safety career.

The students, all wearing neon green YCPA-branded T-shirts, take turns with a partner while practicing CPR. They giggle and talk during short breaks, but quickly turn attentive when the officers begin instructing again. The academy’s effects are apparent outside the classroom, too.

Reed said prior students have felt comfortable enough to come forward with information about drugs, guns or bullying. The sessions focus on relationship building and working as a team.

“The girls who are homeschooled started out very reserved and they’ve really come out of their shells” in the past week, Reed said.

John Arellano, who’s going into 11th grade, said he became interested in the academy after hearing his older siblings talk about their time in the sessions.

“They said it was a good experience and the officers were really nice,” Arellano said.

During the CPR class, the students continue to work on their technique, now applying what they know to infants.

“Your fingers don’t come off the baby — they stay in contact the whole time,” Community Oriented Policing Corporal Dallas Brashears reminds the students as they count compressions.

The officers circle the room, offering guidance on hand placement and speed. Some of the officers tell the students about personal instances in which they’ve used CPR on their own children.

While the students certainly gain well-rounded knowledge about police operations during the sessions, the officers also realize the significance in the relationships they build with the students. We hope they will “look at us as mentors and friends,” Reed said.

For more information about the Youth Citizen’s Police Academy, visit www.fayetteville-ar.gov/YCPA.