Special to the Register & Bee
A special class of students — 37 youths — graduated Thursday from the second annual Danville Youth Police Academy. The academy was designed to build bridges between officers and youths.
The graduation ceremony held at Langston Focus School for this class was the culmination of a three-week program conducted by the Danville Police Department.
Altavista Police Chief T.E. Merricks served as the keynote speaker for the ceremony. He told students they would carry forever the lessons learned from the academy.
“Don’t let adversity define you, and don’t be afraid to come out of your comfort zone,” Merricks said. “The officers here today, and your friends and family here are behind you. I caution you as young men and women that your choices — good and bad — will follow you. I encourage you to surround yourself with good people who want to help you succeed.”
Merricks outlined five pillars to guide the youths through life. Those pillars are humility, passion, unity, servanthood and thankfulness.
The academy kicked off June 10 and featured daily activities and lessons. Officers introduced students to different aspects of law enforcement. Guest speakers told of their life experiences and delivered inspirational stories and messages.
The academy partnered with community organizations which instructed students on topics such as CPR and lifesaving, how to manage finances and how to live healthy lives.
The academy also offered students the opportunity to have hands-on engagement and build mentoring relationships with police officers while showcasing a choice for a future career.
Danville Police Chief Scott Booth called the second academy a success. He credited the success to the work of Maj. Tim Jones, Sgt. N.D. Jeffries, youth engagement officer Cpl. Sylvia Brooks and staff.
“When I first came here in February of 2018, one of the first things I heard was community policing would not work in the city of Danville,” Booth said. “…. My response is that if it works everywhere else — and we have a great community, we have great elected officials, and we have a great management team here — it will work here.
“My vision of community policing is very simple. Community policing, at its core, is the police and the community coming together as one and solving problems. What we have here today with our graduates from this second youth police academy are the police and the community coming together, working together to make our community better.”