Last month, 48 students graduated from the VPD Student Challenge program on Sunday, March 31st. Sara Milosevic and Mathew Pollard graduated top of the class while Nathan Twa was voted by his fellow classmates as this year’s Valedictorian for being a great team player and for always encouraging his fellow teammates during various challenges within the program.
The VPD Student Challenge is a nine-day “youth police academy” that runs during spring break and provides an opportunity for 48 students to experience things that VPD members experience every day. This includes investigation and patrol situations and exposure to the VPD’s specialty squads such as the K9 Unit and Emergency Response Team (ERT).
Applications are open to students in Grades 11 and 12 enrolled in a secondary school within Vancouver. Students are selected based on their academic and leadership achievement in school, involvement within their community, and their physical fitness abilities – each student much complete a timed 1.5 mile run as part of the application process!
Program leaders note that all students are generally timid and nervous at the start of the program but after nine days, students gain confidence and develop strong bonds with their fellow classmates. The program has made lasting impressions among past graduates since many of them come back as volunteers or become volunteers in other VPD youth programs such as the VPD Cadets or the Police Athletic League (PAL) which runs after school sports programs at various elementary schools.
Here is what some of the students had to say:
“This program has been hands-down the best nine days of my life. All the dreadful 6:00 am mornings and push ups were 110% worth it. I have pushed myself to levels I never thought I could achieve. I’ve made amazing friendships with people I probably would’ve never met if it wasn’t for this program.”
“We started the program as individuals, all separated by our backgrounds and experiences. By the last day of the challenge week we were not only a team, but we were a family. I will never forget my fellow participants or the officers who encouraged us throughout the 9 days.”
The program promotes the development of life skills such as leadership, decision-making and problem solving while many of the past program participants have pursued careers in law enforcement such as joining the VPD as Police Officers, Community Safety Officers, or Jail Guards.
Special thanks to Affinity Law for generously funding the VPD Student Challenge. The Foundation is proud to support this and other youth programs.