By Sarrah Peters, News Editor
The Etowah County Sheriff’s Office hosted the 7th Annual Student Leadership Academy June 11-15.
The students participating in the program were nominated by their principals.The principals nominated two incoming high school seniors. Students from private and public schools attended. The Etowah County Sheriff’s Office staff evaluated each student for demonstrated leadership, physical fitness, grade point average and community service.
The students spend each day learning about the various parts of the sheriff’s office and what it does.
Each morning the students rise at about 5 a.m. to participate in physical training. On Monday, students traveled to Jacksonville State University, which partnered with the sheriff’s office for the program, where they spent the day learning more about crime scene investigation and forensic science.
On Tuesday, the students met with law enforcement and county officials. Judge Billy Ogletree addressed the students about purpose. They also attended an Etowah County Commission work session.
“It’s been said over the last few years that you are our future leaders,” said Commissioner Joey Statum. “I think the older I get, I’ve come to the realization that you are leaders. I know in the future it’ll be greater, but right now you are showing other young men and women that you are the leaders. Just by being here tells me that. Getting up at 4 a.m. and running three miles tells me a lot about that, too.”
Chief Deputy District Attorney Marcus Reid spoke to the students about constitutional law. The Sheriff’s Office Communications Director talked to the students about public information. The students also participated in patrol ride-alongs, complete with a patrol debriefing afterwards.
On Wednesday, students learned about special operations in law enforcement. They learned more about the Motorcycle and Mounted Units, often used for crowd control purposes during events. The Etowah County Arson Task Force taught the students about why someone might commit arson (for the insurance money) and how to prove if a fire is arson through the recognition of pour patterns and gasoline detection dogs. The students watched a demonstration of a K-9 unit sniffing out gasoline. Students also learned more about the Aviation Unit, and got to ride in the unit’s helicopter. That afternoon, students heard from Etowah County Joint Special Operations Group Commander Woody Johnson and Gadsden City High School Principal Keith Blackwell.
On Thursday, the students learned about adult probation from Teri Vosbury and maritime operations in law enforcement.
To graduate from the program, students had to pass a final exam on the material covered in the program. On Thursday, June 15, the students graduated the program with a ceremony held at the Pitman Theater in downtown Gadsden.
Jacksonville State University awarded three college credit hours to the program graduates.