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Camp Cadet helps youth discover their hidden strengths

July 28, 2018

As a junior counselor Madison Walker could pick whatever week she wanted to work at Outdoors Odyssey at Roaring Run.

The 2018 Conemaugh Township graduate watched the outdoor organization’s schedule in search of when Camp Cadet would arrive for its week-long opportunity for teens from 13 to 15 years old. Camp Cadet allows campers to experience different aspects of law enforcement in a paramilitary-style atmosphere.

Walker was one of Camp Cadet’s graduates in 2015. She called that week a life-changing experience. She wanted to share that with new cadets.

It was the right decision, she said as she helped boost the confidence of camp participants as they worked through their fear of heights and other challenges on Thursday.

The cadets focus on self-awareness, self-worth and self-esteem. They are taught manners, commands, marching in formation and how to challenge themselves to be “comfortable being uncomfortable,” instructor Trooper David Tretter said. He has enjoyed being an instructor in the program for many years.

The program uses state troopers and law enforcement officers as mentors and instructors on the 500-acre camp. The program incorporates team building and leadership skills through the challenge of high adventure.

“We select the best,” he said about the application process. There were 75 applicants for the program. Thirty-eight were chosen and 35 cadets attended this year,” he said. “These are exceptional kids, good kids we are making into great kids. There is a misperception that Camp Cadet is meant to fix the bad kids, and that is not the case,” he said.

Those who apply have a military and law enforcement interest.

Walker applied to be in the 17-year-old program because she was considering joining the military.

“It is an amazing program,” she said. “It is a challenge. It is scary. You want to go home sometimes, but when the week is up and you do go home you want to get up at 6 a.m. and do PTs (physical trainings.)”

Walker was a different person after she went through Camp Cadet, she said.

Now she plans to join the military because of what she can do. The strength inside of her that she never knew she had came out during her time in the program, she said.

Cadets start their days with physical training, followed by various activities that include demonstrations and discussions with experts in different fields. Among them were a polygraph presentation, a defensive tactics class and a mounted and K-9 unit demonstration.

The state police gave presentations on special emergency response, Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement and Bureau of Forensic Services. The Pennsylvania Game Commission joined the camp during one of the days.

All cadets are required, at the minimum, to run two miles, repel from a 50-foot tower and recite the “call of honor” from memory to graduate. Graduation will be held today at the camp, located in Jenner Township.

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