TEEN RESPONSE: ACSO Cadet Academy offers teen training, certifications

Published 7:00 am Saturday, January 6, 2024

NATCHEZ — What if the first person to respond to an emergency isn’t an EMT or an officer of the law, but a junior high or high school student?

With a new program offered through the Adams County Sheriff’s Office Junior Cadet Academy, that could be the case in the event of a real emergency where one of the area youths certified through the program just happens to be nearby.

Penny Rachal, a Mississippi State University extension agent, and Jacqueline Posey, who is a part-time community outreach coordinator for Adams County Sheriff’s Office, both recently attended extensive training at MSU for the Mississippi Youth Preparedness Initiative, or MyPI for short.

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“We’re going to start off offering it to our cadets and in the future we hope to get more kids involved and train them in the strategies that we learned,” Posey said.

The program certifies the women to train a Teen Community Emergency Response Team (Teen CERT) that involves youth certified to perform CPR and to use an automated external defibrillator in emergencies.

In this program, youth build skills needed for a career in the first responder area or any job such as leadership, communication, teamwork, and decision-making skills.

“Our first senior in the Cadet Academy (started in 2017) actually went to college for two years and came back to be an officer,” Posey said.

Students also learn how to respond to real emergencies now. They will study disaster preparedness, fire safety and suppression, treatment of injuries, search and rescue and disaster psychology.

“We teach breathing techniques and ways to remain calm so that they will be able to respond to any kind of emergency when it arises,” Rachal said.

Each teen who completes the training will receive a backpack stuffed with the essentials — a first aid kit, goggles, flashlight, gloves, duct tape, masks and more.

“They can’t get this backpack until they graduate, and that means that they do the ‘prep plus six’ where they talk to their family and six other families on how to be prepared,” Rachal said.

“They’re going to have to be dedicated and be there every day,” added Posey. “They can’t miss any of the training. We kick off the academy the second week of June.”

Everything, the Junior Cadet Academy and training courses, are free. The MyPI training is offered to teens between 13 and 19 years old, Rachal said.

“It’s great for high-schoolers who need community service hours,” she added.

The program would not be possible without being backed by community support, Posey said.

“We have to beg and borrow,” she said. “Sometimes the community will volunteer and donate money to it. We ask the community to support this effort, too.”

Registration forms can be filled out at Adams County Sheriff’s Office during business hours.

For more information, contact Posey or Rachal at 601-807-6528 or 601-445-8201 or visit mypi.msstate.edu.