By Haley Potter

MEADVILLE, Pa. (Erie News Now) – 64 teenage cadets marched on the campus of Allegheny College in Meadville on Monday, after waking up at the crack of dawn, sitting through classroom sessions and intense physical training, all as part of a week-long camp cadet program to get a better understanding of law enforcement and leadership while making new friends.

“I find it really interesting to be able to push myself harder, do something like this and be able to meet new people as well,” 16 year-old Cadet Diego Ayala said.

He wants to go into the military after High School and finds the structure of the Camp Cadet program beneficial to him.

The State Troopers said they always notice a difference in the kids between check in on Sunday and graduation day on Friday.

“These kids come and there are no distractions, they have no electronics and they just are kids who grow together as a team,” Director of the Camp Cadet Program, Trooper Michelle McGee said.

The troopers and cadets both say that it is about more than just learning to become a police officer. It is also about building a relationship with one another.

“These kids might have only heard or seen negative associated with law enforcement and we want them to leave Friday and I hope they have already seen that there’s a lot of positive interaction that can be had,” Trooper McGee told Erie News Now.

Cadet Bridget Hulsizer signed up for the program because her Uncle is a State Trooper and she wants to someday follow his example.

She thinks kids her age need to build a stronger relationship and trust with law enforcement officers.

“They’re human just like us, they’re super nice, and working with them is great,” Hulsizer said.

They work together through hands on instruction, activities, classroom work and physical training.

Some are interested in possible jobs in law enforcement or the military, some are not but what they learn here could shape their lives.

“We like to say we are a camp who makes good kids better and so it’s really for anyone who kind of wants to push themselves and are up for a challenge,” Trooper McGee said.

On Friday, Bob Bemis will speak to the kids. He actually started the Camp Cadet program locally 48 years ago and then went on to Harrisburg to over-see Commissioners Camp on a much larger scale.