By Val Simon
Each year, the Marco Island Police Department works closely with the Marco Island Fire-Rescue Department to present a Police/Fire Academy through the city of Marco Island Parks and Recreation Department. The weeklong camp was headed up by MIPD Officer Al Schettino and Firefighter/Paramedic Chris Bowden.
The academy — designed for students in the sixth through eighth grades — gives a hands-on look at the variety of training and skills each of these professions require. It’s an ideal camp for children interested in law enforcement, firefighting or emergency services. They cover everything these first responders do on a daily basis.
Officer Al Schettino has worked the camp for four of its seven years. He explains the academy this way: “The camp introduces our youth to the job duties in the police, fire and emergency response services. The children help investigate crime scenes; they have the opportunity to work on the water with the Police and Fire Rescue Marine Units while learning vessel safety; they participate in Search and Rescue scenarios, make simulated traffic stops and work with Fire-Rescue personnel using jaws-of-life Hurst Tools to simulate extracting a person from a car crash. They learn firearms safety, see taser demonstrations and are shown defensive tactics to protect themselves. The participants even have an opportunity to soar to new heights in the fire department’s tower truck. They go through a police training obstacle course and learn about internet safety. We keep them busy all while they’re having fun and making new friends.”
According to Firefighter/Paramedic Bowden, organizer for the Fire-Rescue side of the academy, “The Purpose of the Police and Fire-Rescue Youth Academy is to educate the children of the community. We teach the kids what the Police and the Fire-Rescue departments do on a daily basis. The kids participated in activities, such as crime scene investigation, marine rescue, vehicle extrication, gun safety, fire extinguisher use, traffic stops, search and rescue. Of course, we really enjoy hosting the camp every year. It is a great way for the kids of Marco to understand exactly what we do in emergency situations.”
Bowden also has assisted organizing the camp for several years, but is quick to add, “Many people from both sides helped — too many to list. All shifts from Fire-Rescue and all Police shifts help too.”
Mindy Gordon, recreation manager for the city of Marco Island Parks and Recreation says, “The Police/Fire Academy is a great opportunity for our middle school youth in learning the ins and outs of police and fire rescue. Kids get the opportunity to be in the shoes of Marco’s finest and bravest and see exactly what they do on an everyday basis to help our Marco Island community. The collaborative effort between the MIPD, the MIFR and Parks and Recreation Department has provided our kids with a top notch hands-on educational camp. “It’s amazing to see such a successful program reaching out to our youth. I would like to thank our Police and Fire-Rescue teams for their help and dedication to a very successful summer enrichment camp week!”
The popular camp is only available to 15 students, so once the dates are announced, it fills quickly. If your middle school child is interested in Police or Fire-Rescue services and you want information on next year’s camp, call Mackle Park at 239-642-0575 for more information.