In finding new ways to be engaged with the CFISD community, the district's Police Department recently completed its first-ever Junior Police Academy, giving students a week of learning and activities and helping foster the relationship between officers and their constituents.
Created for 9-and-10-year-old students, the academy featured sessions at Cypress Ridge (June 24-28) and Cypress Springs (July 8-12) high schools. Originally set up for 45 participants per session, the academy swelled to 96 in total attendance. Participants were grouped together into smaller squads, with officers serving as mentors and interacting with cadets on a personal level.
"We're more than just law enforcement," said Eric Mendez, CFISD chief of police. "We have to find ways to interact with our students and find ways to teach them life lessons.
"I'm a big proponent on educational policing because we work in a school district and because the primary customers we serve every day are students. We need to find ways to become part of their educational environment."
Officers and cadets alternated between outdoor activities, hands-on instruction and classroom training each day. Session topics included social media safety, stereotyping and bullying, gang prevention, drug prevention and gun safety. Cadets learned mapping skills and tourniquet application among others, while other activities emphasized team building and problem solving.
Physical training was incorporated daily, with cadets competing in an obstacle course. Fun activities were also fit into the week, giving campers and officers even more opportunities to interact and connect.
"It was really neat because the officers joined in and had some fun with us," said Katherine Sosa, an academy participant and daughter of officer Rebecca Sosa.
Cadets were also treated to unique meet-and-greet opportunities with local public safety first responders. Police pilots and tactical flight officers with the Texas Department of Public Safety flew and landed a helicopter at each campus, while Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department firefighters and paramedics showcased a firetruck.
Members of the Cypress Creek EMS visited cadets at Cypress Springs, teaching a hands-on lesson on tourniquets.
Feedback was positive and plans are already in place for possible academy expansion in the future.
"Knowing that we have several hundred students in our district who want to participate, I've already asked, 'What can we do for next summer? How can we make it bigger? How can we make it better?'" Mendez said. "The officers did an outstanding job with the kids in keeping them engaged every single day of the week, finding activities for them to do and lessons for them to learn, and having actual experiences."