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Cincinnati Police Cadets program helps teach teens life skills, keeps them safe



CINCINNATI (WKRC) - The warehouse at Crayons to Computers is usually busy. The organization provides students in need with tools like books, pens and backpacks to succeed in school.

President and CEO Amy Cheney described the nonprofit's mission:

"We provide a free store to teachers and a mobile outreach to take a subset of the store out to the schools that are farther away in the 16 counties that we serve," Cheney said.

Tuesday morning there were extra hands helping: roughly 38 teens from the Cincinnati Police Cadet Program.

"They are helping to sort donations in the warehouse, getting them ready to come through the warehouse and out into the store," Cheney said.

Cincinnati Police Officer Eddie Hawkins works in the department's Youth Services Division.

"The cadet program is a group of young people, 16 to 18 years old. Some of them are interested in law enforcement. Some of them aren't. We got them for eight weeks, gives them the opportunity to work hand-and-hand and side-by-side with police officers," Hawkins said.

The summer job program builds relationships.

Seventeen-year-old Serenity Brown is in the program for a second year. She has been promoted to the rank of "sergeant."

"It's really just the fact of teamwork and having a really good insight of what the police do. Just working well with people from all different backgrounds," Brown said.

Seventeen-year-old Kyle Kennedy wants to pursue a career in law enforcement and decided the program would be a good way to get experience.

"We have a midterm coming up very soon. So we're actually studying a lot of different techniques and laws and situations and scenarios, as well as we're kind of learning financial literacy and ethics."

The program also changes preconceived perceptions of police and builds bridges between youth and officers. By giving teens jobs and mentors, officers say some of the violence and youth homicides, like a 14-year-old shot and killed over the weekend, are less likely to happen.

Hawkins said, "There's a lot of organizations that have youth initiatives and we're trying to partner with them to get things for these young people because that incident that occurred the other day didn't have to happen, but it's going to have to really take a group effort."

For kids, a summer job can simply line pockets with cash, but in the cadet program, there's an emphasis on life lessons in an environment where youth can build skills and positive memories.

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