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Graduation today for Sheriff's Youth Summer Camp

Photo by Hugh Osteen

Photo by Hugh Osteen

Thirty-two youngsters are scheduled to complete a Henry County Sheriff's Office program designed to provide educational and recreational opportunities.

A graduation ceremony will be held today, at 1 p.m., for students in the Sheriff's Youth Summer Camp. Activities in the camp ranged from volleyball and fishing, to a mock trial at the Henry County Courthouse.

Sheriff Keith McBrayer introduced the camp concept to the community last month. He said he is pleased with the results of the first-time endeavor. "I think we got a really good group of kids," he said. "They got to spend time with deputies, and had frank talks with them. I hope we made a difference."

Sheriff's Sgt. Jimmie Spence works in the department's Community Relations Division, and managed the camp activities. He described it as a "learning experience," for participants as well as for his co-workers. "This is the first time we've ever done this," said Spence. "We started out with a goal of having 25 kids in the class, and we ended up with 32. We didn't want to turn people away, but, unfortunately, we did have to."

Still, Spence added, the kids in the camp responded well to various aspects of the offering. "They liked the outdoor activities more than anything, but most of them said there was nothing about the camp that they did not like," he said.

Thursday's activities were highlighted by a staged crime scene for the kids to examine, followed by a mock-trial in the courthouse. Deputy David Bedford led the children through the crime scene, which included Deputy Lori Mailot, posing as a murder victim, in the Sheriff's Office. Bedford said he was impressed by the abilities of the students, to apply lessons they learned while attending the camp.

"We're trying to give them a real-world scenario — the ones that are interested in law enforcement, and the ones that are on the fence," he said. "They're starting to think like investigators, and they're putting their minds into this. They're trying to figure out the why and the how, which is really exceptional in my opinion."

One camper, who walked through the crime scene, was 14-year-old Electa Miller. She described the experience in one word, "weird. They made the blood look real," said Miller.

Jordan Brown, 13, a rising eighth-grader at Locust Grove Middle School, said he was particularly excited about the mock trial, because he hopes to become a police officer when he grows up. He described the camp as "pretty cool," and an inexpensive way to have a good time during the summer.

"I think it would be good to do it next year," he said. "They do a lot of fun activities, and it's cheap. Thirty-five dollars, and they pay for our food and pay for us to go places."

Superior Court Judge Brian Amero spoke with the kids prior to the mock trial, regarding the criminal justice system. He said the camp is a "wonderful" way to educate young people.

"I think we need to do a lot more of this as public officials," Amero said. "The children are being given an opportunity to learn something about the court system — how it works, the people involved. I think this is an outstanding program, and I hope the sheriff continues with it.

"[U.S. Supreme Court] Justice Sandra Day O'Connor talked about how important civics is," he said, "and how civic education is in need of a boost. The sheriff's department stepped right in, here in Henry County, to provide that boost locally."