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Peekskill Youth Academy Teaches Law Hands-On

PEEKSKILL, N.Y. – For the past two weeks, city children have been spending the day with members of the Peekskill Police Department. This year is the tenth anniversary of the Peekskill Police Youth Academy, a program aimed at educating city youth about the law and the people who enforce it.

Monday morning in Riverfront Green Park, Police Officers Pam Sgroi and Matt Basso instruct cadets to carry out tasks such as counting backwards from 100 aloud, while matching shapes and colors, while wearing headphones that echo what they are saying -- making concentration even more difficult.

“It’s basically something to show them that when people are driving they have lots of things that they need to pay attention to,” Sgroi said. “When they add in texting, or talking on the phone, it makes it very difficult to be able to concentrate on what they’re supposed to be concentrating on and they can end up getting into a very bad accident.”

Police Officer Andre Wright, who also serves as Peekskill’s school resource officer, watched Police Officer Jack Galusha ride with cadets in a small battery powered car through a course of safety cones, driving over more than a few.

“Each cone represents a person, each cone they’ve hit, they’ve killed a person as they’re driving,” Wright said. “Each person killed is 20 pushups for the cadets. It’s like their jail sentence, so they understand the difference between driving sober and driving drunk. It’s a course we do every year and the kids love it. It’s all controlled by the officer inside the electric car. It only goes about 28 miles an hour and the officer in the passenger seat can stop it at any time.”

Wright said the academy continues to be a success with city kids each summer. The program is open to students 12-15 years old, capped at 30 kids due to the cost, but the small number allows students to get more individual attention, he said.

“It’s all free, all the kids love it,” Wright said. “We do have repeat kids who come back but it’s an application process that they have to go through.”

The cadets also get to go on field trips. Last week they went to Newburgh to take part on a marine detail on the Hudson River and take part in a k-9 unit demonstration. They also went on an excursion through the City of Newburgh with police to see crime first hand, and will write essays about what they learned.

“It’s unfortunate that circumstances are like that in Newburgh but we want the kids that have never left Peekskill to witness that, and it was a big eye-opener for them,” Wright said. “They got to see a lot of things they wouldn’t get to see in their lifetime.”

This year’s academy cadets will graduate Friday morning in a special ceremony.

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