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LAW camp sets teens on leadership path (VIDEO)

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, July 15, 2014, at 7:21 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, July 16, 2014, at 6:35 a.m.


Teens gather at LAW Camp

About 150 teens, ages 11 to 15, will camp overnight this week at Lake Afton for the 19th annual LAW Camp, which stands for Leaders, Achievers and Winners. Sheriff's Office and Kansas Army National Guard personnel are mentors, leading the campers in a variety of activities. The camp began Tuesday and runs through Friday. Video by Shelby Reynolds/The Wichita Eagle.

About 150 teens fell silent as the American flag was presented and raised Tuesday at Lake Afton.

They stood in single file at attention and with ballcaps in hand as the Patriot Guard rolled onto the site to kick off this week’s Leaders, Achievers and Winners Camp.

“We have a good time with them, but more importantly, we teach them about leadership skills,” said Capt. Brenda Dietzman of the Sedgwick County sheriff’s office.

The sheriff’s office, the Kansas Army National Guard and about 25 other organizations partnered to put on this summer’s 19th annual camp, which began Tuesday and ends Friday. Campers ages 11 to 15 will learn “life skills,” Dietzman said, including fishing, swimming, canoeing, martial arts and how to properly call 911 in case of emergency.

“We have kids that are Eagle Scouts, kids who need a little help in school or need a little help in society,” Dietzman said, “and we put them together and let them learn from each other as well as the mentors.”

Mentors are law enforcement and military personnel. One mentor leads one platoon – platoons are divided by gender and age – and stays overnight in the military barracks with campers at Lake Afton County Park.

Sheriff’s Detective Kenneth Kooser is a favorite among the campers, Dietzman said.

“Yeah, fat people are,” Kooser said with a laugh. “We get along with everybody.”

Kooser and Brandon Monroe, who is part of both the sheriff’s office and the Kansas Army National Guard, are leaders for a group of boys who are around 13. When asked what brings them to the camp, Kooser and Monroe both pointed at their campers, single file, awaiting orders from their mentors.

“Hard to believe, but it’s these kids,” Kooser said, motioning toward the platoon. “The kids are awesome.”

Monroe said he would much rather meet the kids at camp rather than where he works.

“Given the situation that some of these kids grow up in,” Kooser said, “their only contact with law enforcement is negative, so this is awesome. They can come out here and meet us.”

“And get to know that we’re not bad people,” Monroe added. “We’re just people.”

Kooser and Monroe’s platoon gathered under a tree Tuesday to watch a martial arts demonstration. DeShawn Parker, 12, waited in anticipation to get his chance to deliver a strong kick to a wooden board.

He was the first up. His Converse connected with the board dead on, and it broke in two.

“It was easy,” Deshawn said, demonstrating the broken board afterward. “It felt like I was kicking air.”

Mayor Carl Brewer will host a barbecue dinner Thursday evening, and Sheriff Jeff Easter will conduct the closing ceremonies at 10:45 a.m. Friday.

Some of the teens are repeat campers, Dietzman said, and have built friendships at LAW Camp.

“We give (campers) opportunities within their groups to actually make decisions and build consensus with their groups,” she said, “as well as actually getting to know each other.”

Reach Shelby Reynolds at 316-268-6419 or sreynolds@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @_shelbyreynolds.

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