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First Union County Sheriff’s Youth Academy Class Graduates

union county sheriff ralph froehlich congratulates the first graduates of the sheriff's youth academy
Union County Sheriff Ralph Froehlich congratulates the first graduates of the Sheriff’s Youth Academy.

ELIZABETH—The first class of Union County Sheriff Ralph Froehlich’s Youth Academy graduated today after two fun-filled weeks learning about law enforcement up close.

Twenty-three teens from across Union County took part in the Sheriff’s Youth Academy, a program designed to familiarize young people with the role of a Sheriff’s Officer. Also, it operates similar to an actual police academy for teens interested in law enforcement.

“The Youth Academy aims to teach our kids about law enforcement, what a Sheriff’s Office does, and is a great first step for those interested in the field of law enforcement,” Sheriff Froehlich said during the graduation ceremony. “And from what I heard from these fine young ladies and men, we succeeded in all of our goals in this program.”

Participants in the Youth Academy received hands-on experience in a wide variety of emergency services and law enforcement functions and training.  In addition, youths have the opportunity to learn respect for law enforcement through positive interaction during their time in the program.

“Showing them the human element of law enforcement helps our young people connect with officers in a way they never thought they could,” the Sheriff added.

The Sheriff’s Youth Academy is not a ‘boot camp’ for troubled youth. In order to enroll in the program, the youngsters must have a minimum GPA of 2.70 (B- average), letters of reference and write an essay explaining why the student would like to attend the Youth Academy.

“I commend the Sheriff on creating such an important program for the youth of Union County,” said Freeholder Chester Holmes, a retired Rahway Police Detective.

The two week program for high school students between 14 and 17 years of age met daily from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the John H. Stamler Police Academy in Scotch Plains. They were provided with uniforms they wore each day and had to keep them clean and neat.

During the first week of the program, the teens engaged in a physical training regime twice a day while attending lectures on subjects such as crime scene investigations between workouts at the police academy. They also received visits from representatives from several branches of the military and made trips to the U.S. Marshall’s Office in Newark and to see a New Jersey State Police helicopter.

The second week of the Youth Academy involved visiting various Sheriff’s Office operations around the county including the K-9 Search and Rescue Unit, the Fugitive Unit and Courthouse Complex Security.

The four instructors from the Sheriff’s Office were aided by officers from several law enforcement agencies throughout the county. The Union County Police gave the teens the opportunity to visit the horses of the mounted unit and see U.C. Marine 1, the county’s police boat.

Before the graduates filed into the room to collect their diplomas, Sheriff Froehlich spoke with parents and family members, asking for feedback about the program.

“It gave him a better understanding and admiration for what those in law enforcement do,” said Union County Corrections Officer Ken Burkert about his son, Connor. “Thank you.”

“It was amazing,” 15-year Pablo Medina of Plainfield said after the ceremony. “I loved the people.”

Before leaving, Pablo made a point of seeking out two of his instructors.

“Thank you,” he told them while a shaking their hands. “I’m going to miss you.”