Youth learn about criminal justice

Nearly 20 youth from Ohio and West Virginia are spending the week learning about criminal justice and law enforcement in the Criminal Justice Youth Academy at Washington State Community College.

Students who will be entering high school in the fall as freshmen and up to seniors are attending the fourth annual camp all week, learning daily duties of law enforcement officers, how crash reports are handled, learning about peace officers and even taking a trip to a shooting range.

Olivia Payton, 15, a sophomore at Marietta High School, said she’s hoping to apply what she learns to her future career.

“I want to be the world’s greatest detective,” she said, adding, “I want to stay around (Marietta). I have to stay in Ohio; I have to protect my people.”

She said she participated in the camp last year and has a favorite part.

“It hasn’t come up yet, but it’s going to be going to the shooting range,” said Payton.

John Burdette, director of public safety training at the college, said the camp is important for high school students.

“The purpose of this camp is to give kids…some insight into careers in the criminal justice field,” he said. “Law enforcement is just one piece of criminal justice.”

Burdette said it’s important to offer insight into as many different branches of the criminal justice system as possible.

“It’s for the purpose of letting them know what kinds of opportunities await them (after they graduate),” he said.

There are some fun pieces to the program too, Burdette said.

“(Today) we’re driving to London and attending the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy (OPOTA),” said Burdette. “It’s a very exciting place to see what all’s made available through the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.”

In addition, Burdette said Thursday will be the trip to the shooting range.

“The (Washington County) Sheriff’s (Office) Special Response Team (SRT) will interact with them at the gun range, and we’ll finish up Thursday afternoon.”

Burdette said 17 students are attending the free summer camp.

“It’s the biggest enrollment we’ve had,” he added. “It’s a pretty cool camp.”

Frontier High School freshman Jeremiah Roux, 14, said he’s learned a lot from the camp and hopes to find a job in the criminal justice field.

“I just want to be a detective,” he said.

Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper Eric Knowlton said having the camp can help those who attend in the long run.

“A lot of them want to go into law enforcement,” he said. “It gives them an idea of what to expect…They can go in multiple directions. I think it’s good to have someone…who can let them know what their future can be.”

Christine Stevens, 17, senior at the Mid-East Career and Tech Center in Zanesville, said she is studying criminal justice there.

“I’m actually thinking of (going into) the military, but we still have time to decide what to do,” she said. “I wanted to do (the camp) for the experience of it and to explore my options.”

Tiffany Jarvis, 14, a freshman at Waterford High School, said her love of law enforcement has been ongoing for a few years.

“I’ve been interested in law enforcement since sixth grade,” she saids. “I’m planning on getting into something like NCIS or the FBI.”

Jarvis added that she’s gained a lot of knowledge about car crashes and how calculations are made to determine speed, as well as what to do should a school shooting occur.

Jacob Gerhart, 14, a sophomore at Marietta High, said he’s on the fence about what he wants his career to be, and he has some influence from his father, who attended the police academy.

“I’m in between criminal justice and marine biology,” he said. “I don’t want to be stuck in one career choice; I want to have options.”