©American Canyon Eagle

California Cadet Academy introduces teens to careers in public safety

Tuesday, June 5, 2007 12:08 AM PDT

The Fourth of July and fireworks, baseball and hot dogs, picnics and the beach are all are typical summer tandems. One more usual summer pairing, perhaps the most common, is teenagers and boredom.

If you're looking for something productive and educational for your bored teenager to do this summer, Tony Heuschel's California Cadet Academy offers an alternative to the standard swimming, hiking and volleyball of a traditional summer camp.

Two years ago Heuschel, an American Canyon police officer, and his wife, Nicole, began offering a program that teaches kids some of the basics of a career in public safety.

Their program, the California Cadet Academy is a non-profit residential summer camp for high-school aged students. Kids aged 13 to 18 who are interested in becoming police officers, firefighters or emergency medical technicians receive preparatory training to become Police Cadets and Fire Explorers. The camp is not a substitute for those programs. The students who attend the academy are exposed to law enforcement training, fire science, basic first aid and receive a CPR certificate.

“Our goal is to expose kids to higher education while grooming them for a life of public service,” said Heuschel in an email.

Heuschel is a five-year veteran of law enforcement. He acts as chief financial officer for the academy as well as instructing classes and overseeing operations during the actual camp sessions. His wife is the school’s president.

The academy is a paramilitary environment with a high level of discipline. Cadets wear uniforms, follow a strict code of conduct and become part of a team. The cadets participate in interactive scenarios that allow them to safely experience what firefighters, cops and emergency medical techs do on a daily basis.

The academy uses the facilities of Pacific Union College, a four-year liberal arts school in Angwin. Kids stay in the dorms and eat in the cafeteria Heuschel said.

“The college campus is an ideal environment for the cadets to experience what college life is all about,” he said.

Matthew Garcia is the Director of Public Safety for Pacific Union College as well as being involved with the county fire department. He coordinates the fire component of the cadet program as well as overseeing campus security during the camps. He explained that if kids like the experience there’s a couple of ways to go.

“I encourage them to get involved with a Fire Explorer program if one is available, or if they want a more formal career setting to go to a school that offers such studies. Pacific Union College offers an Associate of Science in Emergency Services. We’re also looking to expand it into a four-year Bachelor of Science degree.”

The students’ time at the camp includes physical training, classroom lectures and field exercises (See accompanying side bar). The majority of the demonstrations and scenarios are held outdoors on over 1800 acres of open space, hills and trails that belong to the college.

Each day begins with about an hour physical training.

“Push-ups, sit-ups, running … working on core body strength,” said Heuschel. He said that the exercise was intended to give the students a taste of what cadet training would involve. They don’t get too intense on the exercise.

“A week isn’t time to get them into shape,” Heuschel said.

The academy instructors are currently employed police officers, deputy sheriffs, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, nurses and firefighters who are dedicated to mentoring the cadets and guiding them towards a successful future.

Cadets experience a range of practical exercises, but the academy is limited as to what types of activities can be presented due to safety restrictions. Firearms training and defensive tactics are not offered and, due to concerns for safety and the environment, controlled burns (actual fires) will not be conducted.

American Canyon Police Chief Brian Banducci said he is looking for kids in the 16- 20-year-old age bracket that are interested in public safety. Banducci said he was considering ways that teens could volunteer to come in and spend time in the station and ride along on patrols. Ultimately, Banducci said, that could evolve into an adjunct to the cadet camp

“I don’t know what the interest is at this point, but maybe we could support them (teens) or sponsor them in the (Heuschels’) program.”

Two cadet camps are offered, each a week in duration. The cost to enroll is $400.00 and includes room and board, meals and most of the uniform. But that only pays a fraction of the real cost.

“The actual cost is about $1,400 per person,” said Heuschel. “We wanted to keep the cost affordable for everyone.”

The balance of funding for the program comes from donations Heuschel said.

The main goal, Heuschel said, is to serve the public. The academy literature says, “ ... the mission of the academy to teach the cadet to be compassionate to the community that they live in or serve.”

This year the two summer sessions of the California Cadet Academy will be held the weeks of July 9 through July 14 and July 23 through July 28.

For more information call the academy at 707 864-6700 or visit the school’s website at www.calcadet.com.

Student schedule for the California Cadets Academy:
Registration / Orientation
Review Policy and Procedures
Assign Equipment / Vehicles Drill and Ceremony

Physical Training
Driver Training
Off Highway Vehicle (OHV)
Traffic Control
Emergency Vehicle - Operations Course (EVOC)

Physical Training
Police Procedures
Criminal Law Officer Safety

Physical Training
Fire Science
Basic First Aid/CPR
Final Scenario

Search and Rescue
Complete Final Scenario
Equipment Maintenance

Drill and Ceremony Graduation Ceremony