Like most, Revere teen Anthony Toomey has heard police sirens every now and then, and rarely gave it much thought.
Now, after spending a week learning everything about the Revere Police, the teenager has a whole new respect for the men and women in blue, and when he hears a siren blaring in the distance at night – he said he’ll know just what that represents.
That being safety.
“Before, if I saw a police officer coming it was just another cop,” he said. “Now, I’m going to wonder which one of my new friends it might be. I’m taking away 40 hours of knowledge about the police and what they do. When I hear sirens at night when I’m at home, I will know there are a lot of good people out there working hard to make sure I’m safe.”
Toomey was one of 40 teens in Grades 7-11 who participated in one of the two sessions of the new Revere Police Summer Youth Academy – a one-week intensive camp that used Revere officers and School Resource Officers to build relationships with young people in the community and help them understand all facets of the job.
The new program came very quickly, said Chief James Guido during a graduation ceremony with all of the kids and their parents last Friday afternoon. He said they were able to get a grant unexpectedly that funded the academy, and he turned to Capt. Amy O’Hara and other officers to pull together two sessions for 20 kids each.
“This came together very quickly, and it’s something we wanted to do for a long time,” he said. “We’re glad to do it and will continue to do it. This was a good start, but we’ll make it better.”
Kids in both sessions, the second and final session ending last Friday, were treated to many hours in the classroom, some physical training and fun field trips. The trips included a trip to zip line, to go sailing in Boston Harbor and to check out the SWAT team.
The Academy team including three School Resource Officers, and 10 officers assigned at various times to it. However, a number of other officers helped out or volunteered while they were on duty in the station.
“What you see on TV is not what the police really do,” said Capt. O’Hara during Friday’s graduation. “I hope that over the last week we helped you to understand that stuff on TV is not what cops do. Yes, we do make arrests, but our goal is always to treat people in this community with dignity and respect.”
For the second session, Police Activities League (PAL) director Chris Oldoni said they had 95 percent attendance for all five days, and 100 percent attendance for at least three days.
“We had great conversations and great instruction,” he said. “Some of the conversations were pretty deep. From the PAL perspective, we’re just trying to expand on our ability to build relationships with the youth and to serve the youth. We’re looking for areas to continue opening the vision further, and this is one way. I’ve been at this awhile and this was impactful. This was a big step forward for us.”
It was also a big step for the teens.
“I was just curious about how the police operate,” said Paul Hurley, 16. “We learned a ton about the ins and outs of how they operate and what goes on in the background.”
O’Hara said the officers got as much out of it as the kids, in the end.
“The big goal for this is to build trust and to develop relationships,” she said. “It was such a highlight for a lot of the officers. We can be mentors, educators and confidants. It was really a highlight for myself and many here.”
Certainly it was also a highlight for the kids.
As the students left the graduation Friday, participant Elvira Martinez lamented what she would do until next year.
“I’m going to miss this. I wish we didn’t have to wait a whole year for another one,” she said on her way out the door of the Station.