BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. - More than two dozen teenagers have started a week that is filled with heart-racing moments, new skills and personal growth.
The teenagers are part of the 6th Annual Teen Academy through the Boynton Beach Police Department.
"I've only been here for a few hours, but I think it's great already," said Khristian Houtenbrink, a 15-year-old student who plans to become an officer one day.
There are demonstrations by the K9 unit, training courses on bicycles similar to what officers would have to achieve and certification classes for CPR, among many other planned tasks.
The reason for getting involved is simple for Houtenbrink. "Be in a position where I help people," she said.
Soon the teenagers remark that there are many layers to men and women who wear the badge. Sergeant Frank Danysh, who has been running programs for teens through the department for more than 15 years, says it is an important part of the process.
"To communicate with officers on a personal level so they can see what happens when they're not arresting somebody, or putting handcuffs on somebody," he said.
As the teens learn new skills, they also gain confidence.
"This is a pivotal time in their lives, when they have the opportunity to either go on and do better with their lives or take the wrong route, and not do better with their lives," he said.
Justin Elian is a 17-year-old participating in the program for his second time.
"It's exciting. It gives me the opportunity to become a leader. One in my community, in my life, in my home. And one of these days I want to become a pastor so I want to have the leadership skills to be able to do it," Elian said.