For many kids, summer break means sleeping in, vegging out and relaxing by the pool, but for one group of students, it has meant pushups, mile runs and team building exercises.

    For the past two weeks, 15 middle and high schools students from the Appoquinimink School District met on the fields of Redding Middle School to push themselves physically and mentally. They were all enrolled in the Middletown Police Department’s first Youth Academy, a program designed to teach kids discipline, respect and pride.


    For many kids, summer break means sleeping in, vegging out and relaxing by the pool, but for one group of students, it has meant pushups, mile runs and team building exercises.
    For the past two weeks, 15 middle and high schools students from the Appoquinimink School District met on the fields of Redding Middle School to push themselves physically and mentally. They were all enrolled in the Middletown Police Department’s first Youth Academy, a program designed to teach kids discipline, respect and pride.
    Christine Brenner, crime prevention specialist for the Middletown Police Department and academy director, said this program was not necessarily targeted to kids and teens who one day want to become police officers, but rather those who have frequently found themselves in trouble at school or with the law.
    “I wanted the kids that haven’t had an opportunity to deal with police officers in a positive manner,” she said. “But the one criteria they had to have to be here was heart — heart to change and heart to be a good person.”
    Brenner said each day of the two-week long academy started with a mile run and ended with a team activity such as football or dodge ball. In between, students would practice military marches, do push ups or enjoy some fun while rock climbing or riding go-carts.
    Brenner said the daily physical training gave the students discipline and pushed them to work hard.
“Physical challenge is one of the hardest mental things to overcome,” she said. “It’s about being able to do something you didn’t think you could do before. We knew what they were capable of, but they needed to know it.”
    Brenner said each student has come a long way since they entered into the program, and she hopes to help many other kids through the academy in years to come.
    “It went a lot better than I anticipated,” she said. “I think I’ll have same amount of support next year since it really was a true success.”
    Brandon Thorpe, 16, of Middletown, said during a speech at the academy’s graduation ceremony that after running into some trouble with the law recently, he realized he had to make a change, and the academy was the way to do it.
    “I was headed down a road of wasted potential, and this program allowed me to make U-turn that couldn’t come at a better time,” he said.
    Brandon, whose 14-year-old brother Cameron was also in the academy, said although there were some ups and downs along the way, many friendships were made throughout the process.
    “None of us will ever forget anyone in here, and that’s one of the greatest things about the whole experience,” he said.