The free one-week academy program, led by the Middletown Police Department and volunteers, took place July 9-13 at Louis L. Redding Middle School.

At the Middletown Police Department Youth Leadership Academy graduation ceremony Friday, the director of the program said the academy’s goal is to bestow critical “life skills,” including the importance of honor, valor and character.

Sgt. Scott Saunders has been working with the program since its inception in 2012. He believes in its lessons about having a teamwork mindset and discipline, even in these “most difficult times.”

He wants the enrollees to remember what they learned while in the program and apply it to their daily lives.

“It’s all about choices and what you do with your talents,” said Saunders.

The free one-week academy program, led by the Middletown Police Department and volunteers, took place July 9-13 at Louis L. Redding Middle School from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. Enrollees, ages 13-16, participated in team-building activities, as well as visited various public institutions, including a firehouse, a courtroom and a prison.

The YLA program also aims to provide students with the knowledge to properly deal with potentially dangerous circumstances, such as peer pressure related to drugs and alcohol.

Tamson Livanov, prevention specialist for the Southern New Castle County Communities Coalition, wanted the students to have a safe, smart way out of those risky situations.

“Knowing when it’s time not to get mixed up in that [will allow you] to continue to be leaders among your peers,” said Tamson, addressing the graduating group.

One graduate, Brendan Loyd, 12, said he enjoyed his experience, and even enjoyed seeing the cells in the prison.

“I liked the courtroom, and [learning about] the decisions that were made to be there,” said Loyd.

Kalob Jordan, 13, also enjoyed his experience with the program and all of the people he met. He particularly enjoyed the escape room he and his peers had to complete together.

“I learned a lot about making good life choices and teamwork and working together,” said Jordan. “It taught me a lot.”

The most difficult part for Jordan was the Career Day program.

“It was difficult for me. I don’t know what I want to be,” he said.

Both Loyd and Jordan expressed interest in returning to the program next summer.

Along with Loyd and Jordan, the rest of the Middletown Police Department 2018 Youth Leadership Academy boys graduates include Harrison Copher, Elijah Davis, Sir Davis, Ryan Elmoumni, Zachary Hart, Bond Igbinosa, Jamir McLean, Alex McMillon, Jason Miller, Kevin Minard, Ryan Munyon, Naaman Tucker, John Washington and Odell White Jr.