What did you do this summer?

It’ll be asked a million times this week as kids head back to class and bid farewell to June, July and August. For many, the responses will be filled with the typical summer fare: swimming, family vacations, binge-watching shows on Netflix…just hanging out.

But, for a few McKinney ISD middle schoolers, summer break offered something fresh and truly unique—the McKinney Police Department Teen Academy.

This summer marked the third year for the week-long Teen Academy, a program that gives kids a chance to develop leadership and teamwork skills as well as an opportunity to learn more about the various facets of law enforcement in two basic academy settings (June 12-16, 26-30) and an advanced academy (July 10-13).

Organized and run by the police department’s twelve school resource officers (SRO) and supervising Sgt. Dave Rodriguez, the summer academy introduced students to McKinney police officers in various divisions such as patrol, K-9, communications, narcotics, crime scene investigation and the SWAT unit as students learned about—and practiced—some of the procedures and principles that police officers use every day.

“The 2017 camp has been great,” said Rodriguez. “[This summer,] we’ve had the most kids go through these camps since we started them, and both of the camps that we’ve served in this summer have been fantastic. The kids have all been brilliant. They’ve all been great. They’ve learned a lot, and they seem to be having a lot of fun.”

During its relatively brief history, one of the basic academy’s most popular events has consistently been the day at the SWAT range and training area; 2017 was no different. The students observed rifle demonstrations, a door-breaching exercise and participated in simulated room to room searches with protective gear and air soft pistols. The obstacle course put their physical fitness—and determination—to the test, as well as their ability to work together.

For Madison Cody, who will be a ninth grader at McKinney Boyd High School this year, the SWAT range was the most exciting activity of the academy, although her future aspirations are focused in a slightly different direction.

“The SWAT range had a lot of action and interacting,” Madison said. “The thing that I really want to do, though, is to be a prosecutor in the courts. I want to be able to put people away, but I don’t really want to be out and about the entire time.”

For Cockrill seventh grader Leonard Pretorius, the experience helped him look at police officers differently. “I was always interested in knowing what cops do and what their job is,” Leonard said. “I always thought they just stop people and give them tickets, but that’s not true. I’ve learned about other jobs in the cop community.”

Sgt. Shanley has been with the McKinney Police Dept. SWAT team for the past eight years, but this was his first time leading students through the academy SWAT day. They made a strong first impression.

“The kids are great,” he said. “It’s nice to have a bunch of motivated kids who are just really interested in doing these things. So, it’s awesome to come out here and meet kids like that.

“They’re really supportive, especially of each other. They were really motivating each other [on the obstacle course], and that’s nice to see,” Shanley said.

Students who completed one of the basic academies either in 2016 or this past summer became eligible to participate in the advanced academy in July which built upon the information gleaned from the basic academy and provided more intensive procedural training and team-building exercises.

They learned firearm safety using air soft pistols, how to conduct building searches, participated in an indoor ROPES course and took part in a SWAT hostage/negotiation exercise at Scott Johnson Middle School.

The Teen Academy is not for everybody, and interested students have to apply to participate. But, for middle school students who are considering a career in law enforcement or just want an exciting challenge, the McKinney Police Department Teen Academy is something to consider.

And, it offers a great answer to that time-honored question…

“What did you do this summer?”

For additional information on McKinney ISD, contact Shane Mauldin, MISD Communications Coordinator, at 469-302-4007 or smauldin@mckinneyisd.net.