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Police teach record group lesson in character, respect

Throughout Anaheim this month, thousands of children wearing caps and gowns will receive diplomas for their achievements in math, English and science.1000906_586437071376438_1356337695_n

At the Anaheim Convention Center last week, more than 1000 residents gathered for a graduation ceremony of a different kind.

The 309 Anaheim Police Department’s Jr. Cadet program graduates, ages 9-12, wore black and red T-shirts with the message “Respect given is respect earned.”  Their classroom was outdoors, and the tests involved running, push-ups and sit-ups. The subjects they mastered: integrity, respect, character and personal safety.

To graduate, the children endured 14 weeks of strenuous exercise and officers in their faces when they didn’t follow instructions. As part of a lesson in respect, children visited the Riverside National Cemetery and placed 1,200 American flags on the gravesites of soldiers killed in action.

It was the more than double the largest graduating class in the program’s nine-year history. Run by the police department’s Cops4Kids non-profit, it’s the only one of its kind in California. An official from the California Peace Officers Standards and Training attended, hoping to share what he saw with police officials statewide.

Many graduates said the program made them stronger, physically and mentally. A few even said they might want to become police officers.

Marie, 11, a Danbrook Elementary School fifth-grader said, she enjoyed seeing a troublemaking classmate receive consequences for his outbursts.

“If somebody gets in trouble, everybody pays the price,” she said. “We did a lot of push-ups, thanks to him.”

Martin Sanchez, 27, said he saw a transformation in his stepson, Ryan Jimenez, 10, a Paul Revere Elementary fourth-grader. “His attitude has changed,” he said. “He’s following directions.”

Recently, when asked to complete chores, he responded, “yes, sir” without provocation.

“This is a great program,” he said. “They teach the kids skills that they need and will use in real life.”

Graduates were awarded certificates, and some earned medals or trophies for their achievements. Each student wrote an essay about what they learned. Officers selected five to read it in front of the crowd.

Brandon Martinez, 11, thanked his parents and the police department.

“Without Jr. Cadets I probably wouldn’t be the person I am and I might be doing bad stuff,” he said.

The program clearly helped his self-esteem.

“Thank you for listening to my wonderful speech,” he said, ending his remarks.

For more information or to join, visit  www.anaheimcops4kids.com.