More than 50 “future leaders of the community” were recognized at City Hall on Friday for their completion of the second annual Youth Leadership Academy organized and taught by the Michigan City Police Department.
During the week, students received inspiring words from Chicago Bears equipment manager Tony Medlin, took part in a law enforcement challenge obstacle course, visited the La Porte County Sheriff’s Office and learned how to row a boat from the Michigan City Port Authority - among other activities aimed at inspiring them to make a positive difference.
“We taught them responsibility and teamwork,” Chief of Police Mark Swistek told several family members that packed City Council Chambers to recognize the students’ accomplishments Friday. “We had a great week, the kids learned a lot and had a whole lot of fun.”
Swistek’s speech, which preceded the keynote address by La Porte County Magistrate Nancy Gettinger, urged the graduates to “always think positively.”
“Having a negative attitude only produces negative results,” he said, adding in his gratitude to the officers who took an active role as team leaders during the week-long course that was primarily held in the EOC room of City Hall.
“The children are our future, so if this department can step up and hold a program like this we are doing our part,” the Chief said. “We plan to continue to do this every year.”
The Youth Leadership Academy began in 2013 after Detectives Dion Campbell and Marty Corley proposed the idea to Swistek during a back-to-school rally the year before.
“I am proud to be a Michigan City police officer because of stuff like this,” Corley said. “Under the Chief’s leadership, we have reached out and helped people in the community. We’d much rather shake people’s hands and get to know them than have to put them in the back of a squad car. I told these kids that I’d like their generation to put me out of a job because there are other things I can be doing in this community."
Gettinger told the students that their participation in the program “makes a difference.”
“Congratulations on making it through this rigorous week,” she said. “You are our greatest asset and the most important investment we can make.”
The juvenile Magistrate had several key words of wisdom for the group.
“Own the future, make it what you want it to be,” she said. “Celebrate your successes, learn from your failures, be kind and give back.”
Individual trophies were given to the week’s top performers and certificates of completion were handed out to students by Detective Jillian Ashley. Student leaders, who Campbell said “went through an extensive process and excelled” were also recognized in addition to a handful of officers who led activities in different groups during the week.
“You have jewels here,” Corley told the parents in attendance. “So you should let them shine.”