Saturday, the day that marks the end of the school week and affords teens the time to catch up on much-needed sleep.
However, that wasn’t the case for 15 second-year Edmonton Police Service (EPS) Cadets that were up at the crack of dawn to take part in the inaugural Leadership Retreat at the Edmonton Police Association’s Blue Meadows on September 19.
With the help of All Around Consulting, an organization that focuses on team building and shaping leaders, the EPS School Resource Officers (SRO) and Youth Enhanced Deployment (YED) Constables engaged the Cadets in events that fostered teamwork, leadership and communication.
“We want our Cadets to be equipped with tools that will enable them to grow and adapt to any situation they find themselves in,” said EPS Constable Daniel Yaassoub, Coordinator of the Cadet Corps program. “Ultimately, this was an opportunity to learn the importance and value of teamwork while working on their leadership skills.”
Arriving at Blue Meadows for an 0700-hours start, the Cadets prepared for a series of mental and physical challenges that would see the day wrap-up with an Air1 rescue simulation, working through how they would prep an injured civilian for successful medical air evacuation.
“[The experience] was really neat,” said EPS Cadet Jonathan Hobson. “I was up at the crack of dawn, that already adds to your stress because you’re tired, you’re moving, moving a lot earlier than usual. But we got going right away.”
The first retreat of its kind for the EPS’ Cadet Corps program, it focuses on building trust, mitigating conflict, encouraging communication and collaboration.
“We’re learning to be better leaders, cheer on our team, and help each other,” said Hobson, who joined the Cadets in October 2019 with hopes to one day pursue a career in law enforcement or the military.
“My dad has been an RCMP officer for a lot of years. I’ve wanted to [work as] some kind of law enforcement officer for quite a long time. The RCMP doesn’t have something like this and I heard the Cadets was a really good program, so I signed up and it’s just all been good from here.”
The retreat complements the Cadet program, which focuses on the development and preparation of youth in becoming responsible citizens through leadership-based activities, teamwork and community volunteering.
“I believe that it’s also building leadership and building meaningful connections, which in the long run, in any career, is very beneficial,” said EPS Cadet Nicoletta Kavgadoulis, who also joined the program in October 2019 after participating in the EPS’ four-day Youth Recruit Academy in March, earlier that year
“I really enjoyed it, and I decided to continue on with it, because I loved the fitness and the training, and all the people I met, and everything I learned in those four days. I wanted to expand on that.”
As leaders building leaders, it is one of many new opportunities for the Cadets to connect since being forced to step back from the program for an extended period due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Throughout the day I could see confidence levels growing throughout all the activities and challenges and teamwork building,” said Kavgadoulis. “We hadn’t seen each other since COVID shut down everything, so to get back together and kick this off was really nice to be able to build our team again.”
With their second year now under way, the Leadership Retreat is the first of many new engagement opportunities for the program that will see the Cadets collaborate with new community partners and initiatives.
One of the more recent collaborations sees the youth group honoring the fallen with a new agreement made with the City of Edmonton Municipal Cemeteries. The commitment sees the Cadets helping to clean and refresh military markers in the Fields of Honour located at Beechmount Cemetery, Edmonton Cemetery, and Northern Lights Cemetery.
With the utmost care and respect, the Cadets work to rid the military headstones and markers of grit and grime that has built up over time.
“This has never been done before, in the history of the program,” said Const. Yaassoub. “And with a few of our Cadets that are interested in pursuing a career with the military, this makes for a really unique experience for them.”
Through community initiatives such as this, the Cadets are given the opportunity to connect with the community and interact in meaningful ways, continuing to strengthen their leadership and mentorship roles as a team.
“This program, I didn’t know what to expect in the beginning, I’ve grown to love it so much,” said Kavgadoulis.
“It’s like coming to a second family. I look forward to coming to Cadets and I just look forward to all the activities, the training, leadership, presentations that we get to experience. It’s not something just anyone gets to experience — it’s a privilege.”