“We pushed a bus half a mile or over a mile, it was kind of easy,” Micha Slim says.
He’s describing a morning of PT. He’s just finished a fire safety class and, along with the other students, will be certified to use a fire extinguisher. The end of the course also included the science behind how fires start and the nuts and bolts of snow-go maintenance.
The camp’s goal is two-fold. Retired State Trooper Marc Otte says one purpose is to familiarize the kids with public safety officers who often come into the villages.
“Absent these camps they may not get a chance to spend a couple hours with a trooper or deputy marshal unless they’re taking somebody out of their homes under arrest,” Otte says.
Alaskan State Trooper Captain Steven Arlow says the primary focus of the camp, is to introduce the youths to possible careers in public safety.
“We need folks from this region to be the next generation of public safety employees,” Arlow says. “We’re having a hard time filling positions that we could fill right now because the adult population exclude themselves from getting into the career because of their criminal history.”
At this stage, it’s difficult to measure the effectiveness of the program. Arlow says the project is a long-term commitment and they won’t see positions being filled anytime soon, but he’s optimistic about the changes he’s seen as the camp has progressed.
Chantel Nukusuk attended last year’s camp and came back this summer to help new students. She says the skills they learn at camp might one day allow them to save lives.
“Because you learned CPR here at the academy or you may be able to turn out a fire in a house,” Nukusuk says. “Like preventing things from happening or helping someone in need.”
Including this weeks youth academy in Bethel, five others will run across Alaska this summer, including those in Mountain Village, Hooper Bay, Barrow and Fairbanks, each one with $70,000 pricetag.
The camps are being funded by multiple agencies including the AVCP, Calista, and TANF, temporary assistance for needy families.