July, 20 2018

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New Boot Camp Gives Troubled Youth a New Perspective

Since enrolling in a free boot camp for middle school students offered by the La Quinta Police Department, 12-year-old Cheyenne Figueroa figures she's done more than 100 pushups.

Before joining the camp, she said, "I have done pushups, like, never."

Modeled after police explorers and academies, the four-week program offers activities that emphasize self-discipline, physical fitness and esprit de corps.

Enrollment doubled in the program's second year with more than 40 students this summer at Benjamin Franklin Elementary School.

Offering Youth Something Different

"The only thing I'm hoping they take away from this is, No. 1, that we offered them an experience that they don't normally get," said Officer Kevin Moore, the program director.

Some of the boot camp activities include a tour of the Chuckawalla Valley State Prison in Blythe, a bomb squad demonstration, fire arms introduction at the Riverside County sheriff's shooting range and a forensics presentation where students lifted their own fingerprints.

"We're not going out doing any recruitment," said Lt. Raymond Gregory, La Quinta assistant chief of police.

"But we do look at it as a good option for middle school kids that might be interested in law enforcement down the road to get introduced to it. Even the ones that don't, they go on to be better citizens."

The program targets at-risk youth.

"In a way, I guess you can say all kids are at risk, especially if they don't have a lot of options to participate in healthy activities," Gregory said.

Excluding staff, the program has cost the police department about $6,000. Gregory said he hopes the city will embrace the program long term and help absorb some of the cost.

The Student Perspective

Students see camp as a good way to get out of babysitting younger siblings and escaping the boredom that accompanies being indoors all day during summer when temperatures regularly exceed 105 degrees.

"There's nothing going on at home," sad Duaron Cowan, 12. "I don't want to be sitting around doing nothing. It's too hot to go outside.

"My family said, 'Yes,' because it was free."

What do Parents Think?

Parents see boot camp as something worthwhile, and they wish it had started sooner.

"It keeps her out of trouble," said Kathy Edlund, Cheyenne's mother. "It keeps her busy."

Sure, they don't like the pushups, but the kids said the activities off-set boredom even if it cuts into their summer sleep schedule.

"This is like the time I wake up," Cheyenne said after a day's events, which ended at noon. "I think I would have quit if I wasn't having fun."

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