7/7/18 Junior Police Academy cadets return home, continue training

Goals, self-esteem and respect
The Junior Police Academy march in formation as they are dismissed to their parents at the Burlington Police Training Center on Quarry Road on Friday, July 6.

Steven Mantilla / Times-News

The Junior Police Academy march in formation as they are dismissed to their parents at the Burlington Police Training Center on Quarry Road on Friday, July 6.

Junior Police Academy cadets return home, continue training
By Kate Croxton The Times-News 7/7/18     
Reprinted with permission.  
After a week in Salemburg, 27 cadets with the Junior police Academy have returned home, and their training will now continue.

The JPA is a summer program intended for rising seventh- and eighth-grade public school students who have been deemed susceptible to behavioral dilemmas. The program, which has been around for 23 years, focuses on providing the students with social skills intended to make them more productive students and members of the community, said Officer Mike Paschal, the assistant academy coordinator.

The Burlington, Graham and Mebane police departments and the Sheriff’s Office are all involved with the program and send staff to help with the academy.

The cadets’ time with the academy, which began Monday, July 2, and will end Friday, July 27, started with the week in Salemburg at the N.C. Justice Academy, where they learned drilling ceremonies, began their physical training, and completed classroom activities to instill self-esteem, self-discipline and self-confidence, as well as goal setting and avoiding risks.

“We get them away from their environment here,” Paschal said. “We get to know the students.”

The 27 cadets, both boys and girls, are first separated into three squads. The squads are intended to keep the cadets separated by schools since the JPA staff do not know whether the cadets are friends or enemies in school.

“We keep them spread out best we can,” Paschal said.

During their week in Salemburg, Paschal said, staff members checked on the cadets every nighttime hour to make sure they were in bed and asleep.

“That is one of the things we sell the parents on,” Paschal said. “We don’t want them to think we are going to take your kid down there and they are going to be unsupervised.

We keep check. We don’t give them an opportunity to be alone to get into trouble.”

The cadets also are inspected by their squad leaders to make sure their beds and clothes are folded a certain way and that their drawers are organized.

‘Really a challenge’

Cadets J’Den Davis, 13, Juelz Wood, 12, and Dorian Smith, 13, were all in Squad Three and roomed together. They said their squad learned about discipline, teamwork, self-esteem, respect, confidence and leadership. Smith said he liked that they had to help each other learn how to fold clothes and make their beds.

Cadet Tyler King, 13, said his favorite part was the teamwork.

“You get to spend time with other cadets and go do challenges,” King said.

All agreed their least favorite part was waking up at 5:30 in the morning each day.

As for the next few weeks, Davis and Smith said they were excited, while Wood said he was a little nervous.

“It is different here than it is out there,” Wood said.

The cadets returned home Friday, July 6, to the Burlington Police Training Center at 128 Quarry Road, where they will be for the remainder of the academy. The cadets demonstrated their new skills by marching and showing off their drilling ceremony for their parents.

“It is pretty amazing some of the things that they are doing while they are marching and the fact that they learned that in those few days. We make a big show out of it,” Paschal said.

Paschal said the past week was hectic and challenging, both for the staff and the cadets, but there was a lot of progress.

“It is really a challenge for a lot of these kids but steadily through the week, it got easier,” Paschal said. “We saw progress in all the kids from day one to now and some of it is pretty overwhelming. By the time we left [Friday], a lot of progress. That is the reward the staff gets.”

Getting into JPA

Before the cadets get anywhere close to Salemburg, they have to go through a detailed process that begins months prior to their trip.

Paschal said his work began in April when he started putting together a list of potential cadets from the seven public middle schools in Alamance County. The cadets are nominated by administrators, school resource officers, teachers, guidance counselors and their parents, or the students themselves can ask to join the JPA.

Paschal said he has to make sure to let the student know that the JPA is not a summer camp or the YMCA.

“It is a lot of work,” Paschal said. “At the end of it, at graduation, there is a real sense of accomplishment. You really earned it.”

Although the recommendations are mostly geared towards students with behavioral problems, Paschal said it is important that the public understands the program is not specifically geared towards trouble makers.

“There are some kids that don’t get in trouble at school. It is more of a self-esteem, no self-confidence type thing,” Paschal said. “We are trying to help them as well. We really try to work on their self-confidence and self-esteem as well, not just behavioral issues.”

Paschal explained they start off with a candidate list and create an interview packet for each name. The group then does an extensive search into the student’s medical and emotional history, their school records and attendance as well as a look into the Department of Juvenile Justice for possible files before moving onto the interview phase.

“When we do the interviews, we show them a video of last year’s academy,” Paschal said. “We explain exactly what the academy entails.”

The students and parents then rate their interest level as well as their commitment and cooperation with the academy. Paschal said that although the parents usually score high across the board, the students’ scores are the ones the JPA really focuses on, and students with low scores are usually not asked to join the academy.

“The kid has to want to do it,” Paschal said. “When I am doing an interview and the parents are all about it and the student is like ‘I don’t want to do that,’ we are not going to take them because if they don’t want to do it, they are not going to succeed.”

In late April, the staff coordinators and SROs get together and select 30 students across the seven schools for the program as well as eight to 10 alternate cadets. The cadets are notified that they have been selected and Paschal explained this is when first-pick cadets drop out and alternates step in.

“We lose students here and there for different reasons,” Paschal said.

After the final 30 cadets are locked in, there is no turning back. The uniforms for the cadets as well as the staff are ordered and the trip for Salemburg is booked. However, even then, cadets have dropped out or been kicked out. For example, three cadets dropped out before even going to Salemburg this year. Others have dropped out over the course of the academy.


Running the academy is no cheap task. Taking care of each cadet costs around $450. Paschal said the academy asks businesses, churches, restaurants and citizens to help by donating either money or meals.

“A lot of it is funded through donations,” Paschal said. “We get donations from different churches. Some businesses have continuously year to year donated. Other than that, it is funded through the police department.”

With the monetary donations, JPA covers the uniforms for the cadets: five shirts, five pair of shorts and shoes, and caps (socks are donated); duffle bags to carry their clothes; uniforms for the staff: tactical pants and embroidered polo shirts; as well as insurance, classroom supplies, meals during the Salemburg trip, laundry, graduation facility and banquet facility rental, graduation awards, and photography and videography.

Their biggest donation, by far, is meals, which are completely covered.

Paschal said Smithfield’s BBQ, Longhorn, Delancey’s, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Mike’s Deli, Western Steakhouse, Texas Roadhouse, Tickle My Ribs and Golden Corral have donated meals throughout the remaining weeks of training. The cadets are never hungry.


Once the cadets return from Salemburg, the JPA staff pick them up every day, excluding the weekends, and work with them from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Paschal said the cadets’ days begin with a flag ceremony and inspection.

“They are lined up. They are graded by squad. Their shirts have to be tucked in a certain way, their hats have to be on, they have to be clean,” Paschal said.

The cadets then complete an hour of physical training before doing 30 minutes of open discussion.

“We really stress the PT,” Paschal said. “That is hard for some of these kids. Some of these kids have never exercised. It is tough.”

They then go back outside and practice their drilling ceremony for 45 minutes before doing an hour of classroom activities. These activities often require the cadets to get in front of the class and talk as a team.

“Our curriculum is focused on goal-setting, self-esteem, risk-taking, respect, dealing with conflict, anger management, substance abuse, peer pressure and violence and gang prevention,” Pashcal said.

The cadets then break for lunch before returning to the classroom and another drill ceremony. They end the day with a review of the curriculum and some writing in their reflection journals before going home.

The cadets are not the only ones involved with the JPA. Paschal said every Tuesday, the parents are asked to attend a meeting to receive updates about their children as well as talk about how the skills taught at the JPA can be utilized at home.

“We want the parents to know what we are teaching the kids and we want them to help continue that at home,” Paschal said. “It does not good for them to be a certain way with us and then go home and keep up their old habits.”

When the cadets are not at the training center all day, they go on tours, such as the Guilford County Juvenile Detention Center to show them what life is like there. The detention officers show the cadets the juveniles’ living area and describe their daily schedules as well as what holidays are like. For example, juveniles get three-minute phone calls on Christmas.

“If I were one of those kids, I would be horrified,” Paschal said. “You leave knowing that is not a place you want to be.”

Role models

The cadets also visit martial arts Grand Master Sangho Lee of Burlington’s Lee Brothers, and participate in some activities for about an hour and half. On July 16, the cadets will participate in the pre-game ceremony of the Burlington Royals baseball team and march out onto the field.

Guest speakers, including former cadets and District Court Judge Larry Brown, will come on certain days and talk to the current cadets. During the Salemburg trip this year, former cadet graduate and Gibsonville Police Officer Michael Medley spoke to the cadets about goal setting.

“He came from very difficult, challenging circumstances, but he set a goal. He set a goal that he wanted to become a police officer, and he did that, he achieved that,” Paschal said. “The kids were very receptive to him.”

One challenge the squads undertake during their time at the academy is a canned food drive. On July 24, the cadets will donate the items to an organization in need, such as Allied Churches or the Caring Kitchen, and also will spend a few hours cleaning up the facility.

Another challenge the squads participate in is a drill ceremony. Paschal explained local law enforcement agencies judge the squads on their marching, commands and cadences. The winning squad is awarded a streamer at graduation.

“All the practice that they do throughout the month, that is what they are working for, is for that competition,” Paschal said.

On their final day, July 27, the cadets will have a graduation rehearsal and spend some time at Lake Macintosh doing activities, such as fishing and volleyball.

“We spend the day, a fun day, before we have our graduation that night,” Paschal said.

Even though the academy begins with 30 cadets, by the time graduation rolls around, there could be several who will not graduate. Paschal said cadets have been kicked out of JPA for their behavior outside the academy while others simply quit because they don’t want to do the work.

“They are told that their behavior has to be the same as it would be with us,” Paschal said. “If they are misbehaving at home or in the community, that is a reflection on our academy and they can be dismissed for that.”

A discipline officer with the JPA documents the cadets’ infractions and will discipline them with extra PT but if the cadet refuses to comply, they are dropped out.

“There is incentive to do well and do what you are supposed to. If not, there is going to be discipline,” Paschal said. “At the end of the day, we can’t make a kid do anything. We meet up with the parents and the decision is usually made to let them go.”

After JPA

Once a cadet graduates from the JPA, he or she are not yet done.

The cadets remains in the program until June of the next year. During that year, the JPA will host three outings — one at Christmas, another during the spring, the last at summer break — during which they hang out and make sure all is well with the cadets. Each cadet is also assigned a mentor who does a one-onone check-up every month.

“They will pull their grades, they will pull their discipline, make sure that they are going the right things. If they see something, they will have a conversation with them about it,” Paschal said. “They try to instill those positive things over the course of that whole year.”

Paschal said there were several success stories of former cadets becoming police and firefighters and youth pastors.

“They don’t all figure it out, but many of them do,” Paschal said.

Paschal explained he is trying to work on tracking cadets from the last 10 years of the JPA and see whether they have been in trouble with the law or keeping on the right track.

“If we help one, if we keep one out of jail, it is paid for itself,” Paschal said.