His summer vacation was no break

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 11, 2005

Think getting up at about 7 a.m. and spending seven hours in class five days a week is tough? Check out what Nansemond-Suffolk Academy junior Sean Hurd did for a week – and gave up a precious sample of his summer vacation to do it.

&uot;I was up at 5 a.m., even though we didn’t have to be up and ready until about 5:30,&uot; Hurd said of his time in the FBI National Academy Association Youth Leadership Program, which stretched over a week in July at the FBI Academy in Quantico. Hurd and the rest of the 49 other participants wouldn’t be back in bed until around 9 p.m. at the earliest; and their was much to do in that time.

Hurd, whose father Richard took the course in 1988 and retired as a major in the Suffolk Police Department in 2003, first heard about the course in January.

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&uot;I figured that it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing,&uot; he said. &uot;I’ve considered a career in law enforcement.&uot;

The Virginia Academy chapter, of which Richard is the former president, nominated Hurd to enter the program, open to 14-16-year-olds. Hurd was the only Virginian to take the course, which began July 14.

&uot;We went in and met the director,&uot; he said of the program’s beginning (aside from 45 Americans, the class included two Canadians, one Puerto Rican and one Norwegian). &uot;We got our name badges and keycards, and then we went on a tour of the headquarters,&uot; he said. The group saw the forensics testing facility, the gun-cleaning facility, and the Hall of Honor, a tribute to police officers and FBI agents killed in the line of duty.

Eventually, the class moved to a nearby Marine Base. The next day, the training began.

Over the next week, Hurd and the rest of the group learned several lessons that aren’t taught in schools like NSA. They learned about being a leader. They learned about situational leadership They were taught how to read a person’s body language, eye movements and facial expressions. Classes on management science (&uot;Leadership isn’t always about power,&uot; Hurd said. &uot;You don’t have to have power to have good leadership skills.&uot;).

Near the end of the week-long course, they got a lesson on ethics. &uot;You have to be a flexible person,&uot; Hurd said. &uot;All our leadership lessons were based on that.&uot;

But the exercises weren’t purely in the mental sense. For about an hour a day, the group played basketball and did other physical workouts. In the final days, they conquered the Yellow Brick Road, a three-mile obstacle course up hills and through trails in the woods, including jumps over ravines (Jodi Foster can be seen overtaking the course in the opening sequence of &uot;Silence of the Lambs&uot;). The course is named because of a swampy area containing several rocks painted gold.

&uot;I didn’t run the whole way,&uot; Hurd said, &uot;but I got through it.&uot;

The course ended with a four-page exam, and participants were given their diplomas.

&uot;I was pretty tired, but it wasn’t entirely too hard,&uot; said Hurd. &uot;If I ever have a chance at leadership, I’ll have an edge.&uot;

Hurd, who hopes to use his new skills as a counselor at NSA’s summer camp next year, said he might attend the Association’s conference next July in Toronto.