By Matt Getts
ANGOLA — Sure, it’s a recruiting tool, but it’s the life lessons learned at the Indiana State Police Youth Summer Camp that keep camp director Marc Leatherman of Albion coming back.
Every year he sees a group of 30-45 youngsters ages 14-18, cobbled from all parts of the northern half of the state, turn into something more.
“By about a couple days into the camp, they are a very close, tight-knit family,” Leatherman said.
Leatherman has many anecdotes of youngsters having their lives turned around through the experiences they’ve had at the camp. It’s those types of stories that keep him coming back.
Leatherman, a master trooper, is in his eighth year directing the camp, which is held on the campus of Trine University. This year’s camp will run from 3 p.m. on Sunday, July 9, through special graduation ceremonies at 3 p.m. on Friday, July 14.
The camp is open to boys and girls.
The cost of the camp is $250, which includes lodging and meals. Applications can be processed through trooper.org. Financial aid may be available. Campers can sign up as late as 3 p.m. on July 9.
The camp is put on by Indiana Trooper Youth Services, a not-for-profit organization.
Men and women from law enforcement — including troopers, Indiana Excise Police and even a U.S. Customs agent — staff the camp.
During the camp, youngsters get a real taste for law enforcement, including self-defense lessons, a firearms simulator, a police pursuit simulator as well as simulated traffic stops.
This isn’t a sit and watch camp, Leatherman said.
“It’s all hands on,” Leatherman said. “We try to get them as close to it as possible. It’s set up to give them an in-depth look at what police officers do every day.”
Students will spend approximately two hours in a classroom setting.
“We cut loose and have some fun, too,” Leatherman said.
Many campers return for a second, third or even fourth session.
A woman from Garrett, who attended the camp for several years, will be going through the Indiana State Police recruit training class in May.
The camp is ideal for those interested in a career in law enforcement, but teaches lessons beyond the ins and outs of police work.
The youngsters will learn life skills such as self-discipline, high moral standards and leadership.
The camp also lets students see police officers in a relaxed atmosphere.
“They see we’re people just like they are,” Leatherman said. “They do not see us in uniform until the last day of the camp.”