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July 20, 2022 - 9:39pm

Third annual Sheriff’s Office Teen Academy in full swing now at GCC

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There are 13 students participating in the third annual week-long Genesee County Sheriff’s Office Teen Academy at Genesee Community College this week. The program was started by Deputy Matthew Butler in 2018 while he was a School Resource Officer at Byron-Bergen High School. Butler retired in 2019, and the academy was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic.

This is the first year the program has been at Genesee Community College, which organizers chose for its central location in Genesee County.

“Byron-Bergen was a great host, but we received feedback that the location was a long haul for some. GCC is a central location, and it is readily available for kids from every school district in Genesee County,” says Deputy/SRO Rich Schildwaster, who is now Lead Deputy of the Teen Academy.

GCC also offers virtual technology, which is new to the program this year.

“We did not have this option a couple of years ago and its one of the things we have been able to add because GCC has a simulator here as part of their criminal justice program,” Schildwaster said.

Students walk into a virtual reality and have a scenario going on in front of them where they interact with people on the screen.

“The scenario can go in different directions. They may be presented with a deadly force encounter, or they may not. They have to make that judgement. It gives them that perspective. Scenarios range from a traffic stop where you walk up to a car and deal with a person to maybe an active shooter situation where you show up in front of the building and people are running out, and you go in and you have to appropriately handle that or try and make decisions like a law enforcement officer would.”

The VirTra Training simulator at GCC has also been used by local law enforcement agencies over the past few years to help prepare law enforcement officers for real-life incidents and different scenarios.

The goal of the Teen Academy is to attract good candidates to the law enforcement field. The academy is run like an actual police academy. Each day begins with physical training like CrossFit, which Deputy Chad Cummings and Investigator Chad Minuto organize.

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Students have attended instructional classes on investigations, penal law, traffic stops, defensive tactics and a Stop the Bleed class where students can recognize life-threatening bleeding and intervene effectively.

On the last day of the academy, students will tour the jail, the courthouse, the Sheriff’s Office, dispatch center, view an ERT demonstration and attend communications and jail staff presentations. Students will take a final PT test, final exam, and attend a review followed by an afternoon graduation ceremony.

Schildwaster says his first year organizing the academy has been a great experience and the local community has stepped up to assist.

“We have a great community here, not all of our instructors are from the Sheriff’s Office. Everyone in the community has jumped on this whole-heartedly and embraced us. Everybody’s dedication makes all this come together because everyone believes in it and is excited to do this. It’s a good program for the kids.”

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Top photo: Paramedic Wade Schwab talks with students of the Teen Academy Wednesday morning at GCC. Students participate in the Stop the Bleed class; Investigator Joe Loftus teaches Defensive Tactics class on Wednesday afternoon; Investigator Kevin Forsyth also teaches Defensive Tactics class on Wednesday afternoon; Deputy SRO Jeremy McClellan with students on Wednesday morning; and Deputy Morgan Ewert, left, Paramedic Wade Schwab, center, and Deputy Jordan Alejandro, right, with students on Wednesday. Photos by Alecia Kaus.

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