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Public Safety class graduates

Most graduation requirements include studying and filling in the correct bubble on an exam, but the students of the Youth Public Safety Academy did far more — including scaling a 100-foot ladder, training with one of the police department’s K-9 officers and trying to contain the force of a fire hose.

Tuesday, 16 students from the Youth Public Safety Academy received their diplomas, completing 11 weeks of public service lessons, activities and community service projects.

“We had an awesome group of kids this year,” said Suffolk Fire Department investigator Pam King. “They came in as individuals from diverse backgrounds but are leaving as a team.”

The program is a joint project between Suffolk’s fire and police departments designed to introduce at-risk students to the public safety fields and create positive relationships between the students and public safety officials.

During the program, students met twice each week to gain hands-on experience on what it is like to be a police officer, firefighter and CSI technician. Participants were mentored by police officers and firefighters, while learning teamwork and social responsibility.

For the first time this year, the program incorporated a community service project. After considering 16 projects, students decided on two: collecting cans for empty food pantries and graffiti clean up.

“The students identified 16 concerns in the community, defined the need, the project and made a plan,” King said. “They set a goal to collect 300 cans, and between the two teams they collected 700 cans — far exceeding their goals. They also cleaned up the graffiti on the side of a local business.”

A favorite experience of Joi Myrick, 14, was going up on a fire ladder.

“I screamed all the way up,” Myrick said. “But if I had the chance, I’d do it again. It was good to have to breach that fear.”

The challenging activities gave the participants a fresh outlook of what police and fire officials do, Myrick said.

“We learned a lot about the different skills fire and police men do,” Myrick said. “It’s more than just showing up when something goes wrong or running around the neighborhood.”