While most students spent their spring break sleeping in and hanging out with friends, four teens from the Coast were pushed past their perceived limits to see what’s truly possible at the RCMP Youth Academy near Cultus Lake.
“You can find your limits quite easily when you go there and you need to be able to push past them,” said Chatelech’s Taylor Lavale.
She attended the weeklong academy with fellow students Tristan Stockwell and Emily Marshall from Chatelech and Nolan O’Reilly from Elphinstone Secondary School.
All four students had an interest in police work and enrolled in the academy to get a crash course in being an RCMP officer.
The students started each day at around 4:30 a.m. doing physical fitness and spent the hours that followed being yelled at for everything from how they stood to how they packed their gear until lights out at 10:30 p.m.
They were pushed to physical exertion on the very first day when Emily said they were made to do “at least 200 pushups in the first hours.”
“On the third day they said we were all going home because we sucked so much,” Emily recalled.
The officers in charge said students would be taken by bus to the Chilliwack training centre, where they would have four minutes to complete and pass an RCMP exam. If the cadets failed or took longer than the four allotted minutes, they were told they would go home.
Then the officers proceeded to take time off each cadet’s four minutes for every infraction they could find.
“They kept making things up to take time off, like if you had your PT (physical training) gear in a plastic bag you got two minutes taken off and there was no way you could do the test in that short a time,” Taylor said.
Many cadets were in tears on the bus ride to Chilliwack, sure they’d be sent home.
“Then we got there and the constable was like ‘OK you guys can smile now, you’re not going home,’” Emily said, noting the trip was actually about meeting members of different divisions of the RCMP and practising live scenarios with them.
The entire bus scenario was one of many designed to see how the cadets would handle extreme stress, said Sunshine Coast RCMP Const. Ashley Taylor.
Taylor attended this year’s youth academy as a training officer and found it extremely difficult to stay stern with the students, who she could see were suffering.
“We had to allow them to go through the emotions on their own and go through the feelings of fear and anxiety and stress on their own to try to create an environment to test their abilities under a stressful situation, but there were many times I wanted to reassure them that things would be OK,” Taylor said.
Each Sunshine Coast student had doubts about their abilities at some point, whether it be the physical fitness, classroom or practical portions of the course, and everyone had difficulty functioning on little sleep.
“Definitely trying to get into the habit of getting up so early and going to bed so late was very mentally and physically draining,” Nolan said.
But the cadets leaned on each other to get through the hard times and even when they doubted themselves, they kept pushing forward, which showed them all that they could do more than they thought possible. Each of the four Coast students plan to go into some area of law enforcement in the future. Taylor wants to get involved with the K-9 unit, while Tristan is looking at a career in emergency response. Emily isn’t sure which area appeals to her most but she’s sure she wants a career with the RCMP.
Nolan intends to get a little more schooling before enrolling.
“I’d like to look into the Justice Institute and go there and get a degree in law enforcement or something and then go off to depot, that’s my plan,” Nolan said.
Everyone agreed that although difficult, the RCMP Youth Academy was incredibly rewarding.
“I would highly recommend it to anyone,” Tristan said. “Even if you’re not thinking about going into the RCMP it’s worth it.”
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