An annual trip to the West Virginia Sheriff's Association Leadership Camp has grown over the years, according to Sgt. Robert Sell with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department. Sell, who has volunteered with the camp for seven years, shared that the number of Jefferson County youth increased to 19 for the camp held in July near Huntington.
The camp is open for initial attendance by students who have completed eighth grade; however, older students can and do return to the camp after their first year.
Sell said that he visits the county's middle schools and speaks with the eighth grade students in the spring of each year to explain what opportunities are available at the week-long camp. Interested students then apply to the camp and are selected by members of the state Sheriff's Association.
The 19 students who traveled with Sell and Lt. Willie Johnson from Berkeley County, took part in a variety of activities during the week including bomb demonstrations, Canine demonstrations, mock accidents that concluded with a mock trial as well as other activities often associated with camp.
More than 170 students from around the state attended the camp and were divided randomly into four "divisions" who then competed against each other throughout the week. Points were earned for everything from winning sporting events to having a neat barracks.
During the mock trial, three Jefferson students were selected to serve on the jury with the selection process following that established in a courtroom. Cameron Ballenger, Alex Ouimet and Patricia Capel were chosen as acceptable juries by the "lawyers" while Jacob Craver was immediately dismissed because he was wearing a t-shirt with the phrase "not-guilty" emblazened across it, Sell said. Sell was not sure if Craven wore the shirt on purpose or if it was just something picked up by the students portraying the legal teams.
Extra points were awarded in the competition to if members were elected to offices such as judge or court clerk. Winners of "outstanding cadet" titles also garned additional points for their districts.Jefferson attendees captured a few of these honors including Outstanding Cadet in District 1 that went to Jacob Carver. Kendra Jalbert was named the fasted female in the mile and a half run for the second year in a row and Talon Hill was awarded the Outstanding Male Cadet in District 4. In addition to these awards, Kendall Martin was elected as the Circuit Clerk for the mock trial.
Sell said that the campers all seemed to enjoy the week despite some hardships caused by weather.
"It was really hot that week," he said and "we got hit by a lot of severe thunderstorms." The rains caused some sporting events to be canceled and those who were housed in an air conditioned tent to move into the dining hall for the final night as the tent flooded.
"They took it all in stride," Sell said. "No one wanted to go home."
Sell explained that on the bus ride to camp, the students were a bit anxious about going into the camp since many of them did not know what would be involved. Coming back, he said, the bus always is a bit more rowdy and memories are shared and there is much talk of the fun had at the camp.
Sell said that he hopes that next year's attendance by Jefferson students will only grow and that Berkeley County will have students to send as well. No one from Berkeley County attended in 2012, he said.
While everyone who attended in 2012 is eligible to return, Sell said he is not sure if they all will return. He hopes that new students seeking to attend the leadership camp will step up and apply.
The Jefferson County Board of Education and the Jefferson Sheriff's Association paid for the transportation to Huntington and the cost for a camper to attend stands at $50 for the week.
"We have never turned a kid away,": Sell said. If a student does not have the attendance fee, he indicated that it is found somewhere.
The camp for 2013 has not been scheduled yet, Sell said. He indicated he is hoping for a more central location in the state so the travel will not be as far.
"We were the furthest away," he said of the 2012 camp. "I was very proud of the kids because no one wanted to go home," he said.
For more information on the camp, contact Sell at the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office at 304-728-3205. He will visit and speak to eighth grade students at the middle schools in the spring.