SUMMIT, NJ - Every day police officers patrol our communities to ensure our safety. Sometimes it's easy to underestimate how valuable and brave these individuals truly are. But it takes much training, dedication and courage, supported by a team of specialized professionals, to make it in the ranks of law enforcement. Just ask the 24 youths who graduated Friday, August 20th as part of the class of the week-long 2010 Summit Police Youth Academy.

These youth, ranging in ages of 11-14, experienced first-hand the day-to-day, behind- the-scenes training and operations of the Summit Police Department and Union County special services teams to learn the important role of being a law enforcement officer.

Participants followed a regiment similar to today's police academy through a program that included physical training in "Drill and Ceremony", instruction in criminal investigation techniques, evidence recovery, and witnessing the effects of drugs and alcohol. Each day they were challenged to participate in boot camp-like activities that would help make them become stronger and more disciplined, just like candidates of the police academy.

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The culmination of the program resulted in Friday night's graduation ceremony held at the Summit Police Department - one in which both the youths, their law enforcement officers counterparts and public officials - exchanged mutual respect for one another.

Under the guidance of Sergeant Bartolotti, Lt. Weck and Pam Ferreira, Officers McDermott, Santos and Padilla led the day-to-day activities of the program and were on hand to recognize each participant for their achievements. Chief of Police Robert C. Lucid stated that this program instilled in the youth the sacrifice that a law enforcement officer must undergo. However, respect is contagious, as the officers who ran the program expressed similar admiration for the dedication and energy that the youth brought to the program.

One participant who was recognized for her individual accomplishments embodied the spirit of the program, expressing her desire to become a police officer since age 4 and the program has strengthened this goal. Indira Larson, who was one of two recipients of the overall Merit Award recognizing their overall motivation and positive spirit, said "This was a very inspirational, fun activity. Now I have met my challenge and am ready to be a leader."

Councilman Michael Vernotico thanked parents, saying they should be proud of their children and to remember they are the biggest influence on their children. He reminded the youth that "bad decisions are never the right decisions." and that by making the right (sometimes less popular) decisions, they can be role models for their classmates, friends and teammates. Mayor Jordan Glatt underscored this point, poignantly stating that unlike those youth that have been involved in recent events, the participants of this "program truly reflect what Summit represents."

And so a week of intense training and increasing respect and admiration, ended with a resounding "Yes, Sir, Yes!"