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Twelve-year-old Raheem Will picked up a wand and placed it into the magnetic powder. After he dragged the powder along the white sheet of paper for a few seconds, fingerprints emerged.
“I think it’s interesting how our local sheriff’s (office) figures out how to solve crimes,” Raheem said.
Raheem was one of more than 35 campers taking part in the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office’s weeklong PATHS summer program, whose name stands for Providing Alternative Thinking Strategies.
“It’s real fun,” Raheem said of the day camp. “It feels like a vacation.”
The camp gives kids an up-close view on how each sheriff’s office division works and what deputies do each day. They also learn vital life lessons and have an opportunity to interact with local law enforcement on a personal level. Campers spent Tuesday morning learning about several techniques used in crime scene investigations, including how to dust for fingerprints and how detectives make footprint casts if a perpetrator leaves a shoe print behind at a crime scene.
“It’s been cool to see your fingerprints and shoe prints and how to use the tools they showed us,” said 13-year-old David Telfer.
The camp kicked off on Monday with orientation where deputies spent time with the children and discussed a host of topics.
Campers will get to learn about SWAT, dive and K-9 teams later this week through interactive demonstrations. They will also tour the jail and courthouse. Kids will learn how to build moral character, the importance of community involvement and how to have a positive attitude and what to do in a compromising situation.
“It builds good partnerships between law enforcement and the kids,” said Sheriff Calvin Woodard. “It also develops a teamwork aspect.”
Woodard said it takes programs like PATHS to help lower the crime rate and show the positive side of law enforcement.
The PATHS program is usually held each quarter, where participants ages 11-13 tour the vacant third floor of the Wilson County Detention Center. Through videos and anecdotes, Woodard and deputies teach children strategies to resist bullying, gangs and drugs and what to do when facing peer pressure.
Woodard decided to expand the PATHS program last year to a weeklong summer day camp, which is now in its second year.
“It opens up the door for us to let them know that it’s OK to come talk to us,” said Lt. Marcus Ruffin, coordinator for the program. Ruffin said the program also builds trust between law enforcement and youth, which is vital.
‘IT FEELS LIKE A VACATION’
Nine-year-olds Joe Velasco and Bernard Williams took a break from their studies on forensic science Tuesday. They peppered Woodard with various questions from how the department works to whether has ever had to use his badge.
“It makes you feel like it’s your own children,” Woodard said. “It’s very exciting to just hear what they are interested in. It’s unbelievable.”
Joe said he had already learned a big lesson by Tuesday.
“I’ve been learning not to do drugs and not to do bad stuff,” the 9-year-old said. “We are going to learn to respect our parents by Friday.”
As 12-year-old Raheem finished up his activities Tuesday, he couldn’t stop smiling.
“It’s real fun,” he said about the camp. “It feels like a vacation.”