Stop the Violence: Police Camp
July 26, 2013 (CHICAGO) (WLS) -- Some Chicago police officers who work in the city's toughest neighborhoods are using their off time in hopes of making a difference. They are hosting a summer camp that targets at-risk youth. They say one of the solutions to the problem of youth violence is stopping it before it starts.
It's rooted in military basics as a way to teach discipline and respect. Some students admit it's exactly what they need.
"I used to get in a lot of fights at school," said Brittany Scott, 16. "My counselor and my dean told me that I need more discipline in my life and I needed to go to the police officers to teach me things that I never learned before."
Chicago police officer Charles O'Connor says he sees too many teens who fit that bill. He grew up in Englewood and now works in that district.
"We saw how the kids would hang around the abandoned buildings with nothing to do," O'Connor said. "We're given the opportunity to teach them on a college campus, what it's like to actually get yourself prepared, to get that motivation, to have that discipline."
The Chicago Youth Leadership Academy is a three-week long program housed on the University of Chicago campus. It's organized by off-duty Chicago police officers from the Englewood and Woodlawn districts. It also includes classroom time with motivational speakers and workshops to help teach leadership and boost self-esteem.
"I was the one who never spoke up because I felt if I had the wrong answer then I'd get made fun of, but now if I get the wrong answer I feel I'm comfortable around these people," said Timerria Daniel, 16.
"I had disciplinary problems with my mother and so she wanted me to be in the camp with men," said Kadmon Squair, 15. "So I would have men around me to teach me how to become a man."
Some students say they also see the benefits of taking part.
"The weekend that just passed, two shootings happened in one day around my house. So I'm really glad I'm in this program. The shootings, it would have been me," said Mysun Wade, 13.
The Chicago Youth Leadership Academy is free to students, but costs roughly $65,000 to fund. The police officers are working to raise money for next year as they already have a waiting list of students who would like to participate.
Officer Charles O'Connor
Director, Chicago Youth Leadership Academy
University of Chicago, director of community partnerships
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