Many teenagers have no idea what they want to be when they grow up.
Many change career paths before they even really have a grasp on what that career would even mean.
For a group of young Port St. Joe citizens, a tour and a little hands-on experience Saturday may have made the decision of what to be a little easier.
The group, the Port St. Joe Police Cadets, was offered the opportunity to tour and learn a little from the Gulf Coast State College Division of Public Safety.
The school, which shares space with the Bay County Emergency Operation Center in a 50,000-square foot state-of-the-art hurricane-proof building, offers courses in law enforcement, as well as firefighting, first aid and correction.
The cadets began their day with a tour of the building before moving on to more hands-on learning.
Faculty from the school volunteered their time to try to give the cadets a grasp of the public safety field.
Karen Tayes taught the young cadets the basics of CPR and defibrillation, before sending the cadets to firefighting instructor Kevin Granberg.
Granberg showed the cadets a video from firefighting training before challenging the students to put on a fire shelter used by forestry firefighters in under 30 seconds.
Granberg highlighted that while many think of firefighting simply through the lens of an everyday fire station, there was a great need for forestry firefighters and a need for all first responders to be trained in the basics of firefighting.
The cadets were then treated to a wild ride in a police cruiser through the school’s driving course.
There were nervous faces all around, but only smiles after the ride.
“One of them just got out of the car and said ‘that was awesome,’” said Police Chief Matt Herring.
Running ahead of schedule the cadets were treated to some unscheduled training in defensive tactics.
The young teenagers jumped onto the mat with some Bay County emergency responders and impressed the instructors and adult students with their striking ability.
One of the key lessons of the defensive tactics class was how to approach a subject to best avoid confrontation.
However, the students were instructed on how to defend themselves if they were attacked.
The cadets also got a turn through the firearms simulator, which familiarized them with the standard police sidearm and ran them through different scenarios that the students of Gulf Coast run through before they go on to police certification.
Through a computer simulation and a real firearm, outfitted with a laser instead of ammunition, the cadets learned how difficult it is sometimes to spot danger and how much harder it is to respond to a threat correctly.
Throughout the day the cadets showed a great deal of respect for the instructors and for the subject matter.
While much of that subject matter was serious, the cadets challenged each other and seemed to thoroughly enjoy the day.
“I think all of the cadets have enjoyed it,” said Herring.
Herring started the cadet program at the beginning of the last school year and is looking to grow it this coming year.
In the first year, the 10 cadets learned about everything from law enforcement to firefighting culminating in a series of ride alongs over the July 4th weekend.
While Herring hopes that some of the cadets will go on to become to become law enforcement officers, he said the department’s efforts to reach out to local youth is simply a way to build a better community.
“We want them to serve the community,” Herring said. “We want them to learn about what we do and if they are interested in it good, if they’re not we can just help them be better members of society.”
The cadet program hopes to expand to 18 members and currently has five candidates to fill-in the additional eight spots.
According to Herring, the activities will only grow this year and will include training on traffic enforcement, CPR, and even crime scene investigation.
Anyone interested in the program can get more information and an application at the Port St. Joe Police Department.