Kids turned cadets leave for Burlington’s Junior Police Academy

ALAMANCE COUNTY, N.C. -- In a florescent-lit training room, normally used by the Burlington police and fire departments, sat 27 kids early Monday morning. Lined up in desks like school, each student dressed in the same gray T-shirt, the same navy blue ball caps and the same anticipation for a week away at Burlington's Junior Police Academy.

"I think it's a good opportunity for them to get some good responsibility, learn some respect," mother Blanca Cortez said.

"How to better deal with anger," said another mom, Melissa Flynn, when asked about what she hopes her son takes away from the camp. "Self-esteem boost mainly."

The kids are all either in middle school or just getting into high school. Mothers and fathers embraced their kids, saying goodbye, before they board the buses to Salemburg for the week. All the students carry with them is a brown paper bag with overnight essentials.

"The relationships that we're establishing with these young people and how that can carry over later on in life," said Master Officer Chad Laws talking about what he looks forward to each year in camp. Laws has been with Burlington police for 20 years, helping with the program for a majority of his tenure.

Police are certainly concerned with the amount of young people getting involved in crime in Alamance County. Just last week there was a shooting that sent a 15-year-old to the hospital. The goal is to get kids away from that type of crowd.

"Get their attention focused on what they need to do personally to make some positive changes in their life," Laws said.

"I think it's good for people to stay in shape, it's good for people to get off their electronics for a good week and actually do something active," said Jason Flynn, who was joining the Junior Police Academy for the first time.

"I get in trouble a whole lot but it can sort of calm me down a little bit," 12-year-old Leon Evans said. "'Cause I've done a whole lot of stuff that I regret and it will make me a better person."

These young cadets will return on Friday from the week at Salemburg. They will be back wearing the same uniforms, those same blue caps, but carrying a different perspective.