More than two-dozen East County teenagers have been spending their summer break at the police department.
No, they aren’t in trouble.
They’re taking part in the El Cajon Police Department’s annual Teen Academy. During the two-week program, 27 students within Grossmont Union High School District will learn about the variety of career opportunities available in law enforcement, including police officers, dispatchers, forensic lab technicians, records clerks and property and evidence positions.
Throughout the Academy, the students are challenged with a number of hands-on activities. They have to do formations, process mock crime scenes, conduct emergency vehicle operations and much more.
Jordyn Marshall said the program has helped her to push her limits.
“I’m more open to doing things that I definitely wouldn’t have thought I would be able to,” Marshall said.
Marshall is one of 19 girls participating in this year’s Teen Academy, the largest number of female students they’ve seen since the program started four years ago. She said the experience has helped prepare her for her chosen career as a park ranger.
“This program definitely helped me realize what I want to be and where I need to go after this,” Marshall said.
Another goal of the ECPD Teen Academy is to build positive relationships between El Cajon Police Officers and the community.
Student Iliana Marrujo said working alongside the officers has given her a new appreciation for those in uniform.
“The common misconception is that police officers are scary and mean, but I’ve never had that kind of experience or relationship, and definitely being in this program has helped me gain confidence in truly knowing that police officers are there to help you and they’re not trying to hurt you,” Marrujo said.
The Teen Academy wraps up this Friday with a graduation ceremony.
School Resource Officer Amber Bolton said the students leave the program transformed.
“That first day, it’s that look of panic on their face, they don’t know what to expect, but by the end of this course, long-time friendships are made, relationships, mentorships with the officers that are involved in the program, and I think it’s a totally life-changing experience for some of these kids,” Bolton said.