As she walks the halls of , a lot of students know Kelly DeJonge as the school's resource officer. Now, dozens of teens are getting to know her as a teacher too, thanks to the six-week Youth Police Academy that she helps teach through the Glendale Police department.
“This gives them a chance to see me and the police work I do outside of the school,” DeJonge said.
The annual course begins in March and is free to the 15 students who apply and are selected. But this class isn't just for those aiming for careers in law enforcement, DeJonge said that sometimes it just takes a little curiosity.
“A lot of the kids think that the only reason they'd be in the class is they'd want to get into police work," she said. "That's not really true at all. A lot of the kids are curious."
Students ages 13 through 18 learn about a different topic each week, including a tour of the police department, K-9 demonstration, drug and alcohol education, a crime scene investigation unit, a Taser demonstration, and finally, mock traffic stops. The program is funded by a $2,000 grant from Target.
The class meets one night a week from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Glendale Police Department.
Modeled after the , DeJonge said she wanted to have something geared more towards students.
“It's a great experience for them to learn about what police do," she said. "The various departments we have, the various jobs that we do... a lot of kids that have gone through the class. I've had kids beg me to come back a second year.”
While some kids take the class because they're curious, other students like Alex Simon, went through the academy because he wanted to pursue law enforcement.
“I pretty much new I wanted to do some sort of law enforcement, but I think this class really reinforced that,” he said.
Simon is currently a Sophomore at the University of North Carolina- Wilmington studying criminal justice and psychology. He went through the Youth Police Academy when he was a Senior at Nicolet and credits the program to giving him a deeper understanding of police work.
“I think it just showed me more into the police departments workings,” he said. “Its hard to really know how the police department works and what they do, so that class got me inside there and I got to see all of the different functions.”
Simon also noted that it's a nice opportunity to speak with officers when there's nothing wrong, which may not be the case at other times.
“Usually when you interact with police officers someone's hurt or in trouble and this was a good way to interact with them,” he said.
And DeJonge said that's one of the goals of the program, to show kids another side of officers, including herself.
“The nice part about it is I already have relationships with the kids in the school, and this gives them a whole different perspective about me when they come to class.” she said.
The academy is for Nicolet High School students or any teens living in Glendale. Applications are now being accepted for the 2012 spring class, which starts March 14. You can download an application here.