Police academy aims to steer teens down the right path

A new class of teenagers graduated from the Young Adults Citizens Academy on Tuesday.
 
The program gives teenagers an inside look at what it's like to be a police officer, but it also offers fresh perspective for some on their future.
 
"I wasn't sure exactly how it was going to play out," Enrique Silvestre said.
 
At first, Silvestre was skeptical.
 
He didn't plan to spend any of his summer vacation with police officers. But this spring, the 16-year-old was caught with marijuana.
 
"I looked into myself thinking what could I have done differently," said Dawn Silvestre, his mother.
 
It was the first time he found himself in legal trouble, and his school resource officer suggested a program with Tampa Police Department.
 
"He recommended this because it would look good in court," Enriques Silvestre said.
 
The academy is a six week course for teens, some of whom are in danger of heading down the wrong path.
 
It gives them a behind the scenes look at life as a police officer and inspires them to make good decisions.
 
Over the next month and a half his mother says she saw a change.
 
"First day, I'm not going to that. That's with a bunch of police officers," said Dawn, describing the conversation with her son.
 
Those officers let the kids take a spin in police cars, teaching them how to spin out drivers during a chase. And they took them through virtual situations police face on the street to see how they would handle it.
 
"The third time, the biggest smile on his face," Dawn said.
 
Tuesday, that smile was back as Silvestre received his graduation certificate from Chief Jane Castor.
 
"It definitely was an eye opener because to think that my choices in my youth could affect my entire life," Enrique said.
 
If you think this is a program your teen would benefit from, Tampa Police Department says to contact your teen's school resource officer.
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