By Donna Thornton/News Editor
A group of 22 high school seniors got a unique opportunity to learn leadership skills that could last them a lifetime, and perhaps encourage them to devote a life to law enforcement.
The Etowah County Sheriff’s Office welcomed two seniors from each of the high schools in the county to participate in the Student Leadership Academy — five-days of education and training, provided by members of the sheriff’s office, the Gadsden Police Department, the Joint Special Operations Group, the district attorney’s office, the judicial system, the Gadsden City School System, the faculty of Jacksonville State University and the Auburn Athletic Department.
They also got to shoot guns and watch the bomb squad demonstration their equipment and blow things up at the Gadsden Police Training Facility, rode along with deputies, saw demonstrations from the aviation, motorcycle and marine units, visited the cadaver lab, studied crime scene investigation, and attended an Etowah County Commission meeting.
Etowah Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Natalie Barton said the sheriff’s office asked school principals to send two of their emerging leaders to participate in the academy.
Some members of the county commission joked to the students that Sheriff Todd Entrekin was interviewing them.
“Most of these students may have no interest in a career in law enforcement,” Barton said. In addition to the law enforcement/judicial system instruction, Barton said there were speakers daily on topics related to character: service, purpose, influence and determination.
Barton said the students were being exposed to all aspects of the sheriff’s office, and of the county government.
For those who find they might be interested in a career in law enforcement, Dr. Richard Kania, of JSU’s criminal justice department, offered instruction in three sessions: The American Criminal Justice System, Discretion and Ethics in Criminal Justice and Summary of Criminal Justice System Issues and Problems.
Barton said what the students were getting was basically Criminal Justice 101, and if they pass a test at the end of the academy, they can receive three hours of college credit for it.
While the main topic of the academy is law enforcement, Barton said the main purpose it to help these young people further develop leadership skills that will benefit them in what ever they choose to do with their lives.
Students attending the academy were: Noell Lipscomb and Morgan Luttrell, Coosa Christian; Dalton Hayes and Maci Ledbetter, Etowah; Tiara Macon and Terrell Malone, Gadsden City; Tyler Jennings and Ashlie Sims, Gaston; Rebecca Blakney and Hannah Grant, Glencoe; Adam King and Harley Westmoreland, Hokes Bluff; Blaine Pruitt and Payton Golden, Sardis; Austin Criswell and Hannah Phillips, Southside; Chase Blanton and Courtney Oliver, West End; and Kennedy Vice and John Maurer, Westbrook.