As summer programs go, there is just about anything you can think of from athletics to camping, faith-based to science camps. Here in Charlotte, one of those standout camps is the CMPD Envision Academy.
The academy was started three-years ago by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief Kerr Putney. He wanted a program that gives local kids an opportunity.
"I wanted to do something to invest in our future. Show young people how they can be great," Putney said.
About 300 applications were taken for the eight-week summer program. After an interview process, 40 scholars were chosen.
Yesterday this amazing group of young people took to the stage at the Police Training Academy to share their stories and give exit presentations about the program.
Some of the topics covered included their favorite site to visit, the favorite experience of the program and greatest surprise. The three-hour program kept the families, friends, police officers, mentors and business members in attendance filled with joy and pride and a few tears were shed.
An ongoing reflection from many of the scholars was that a person's past does not define their future.
"Never let anyone take away your dreams. Believe you can do anything," Jovani Ceja-Catalan, CMPD Envision Academy scholar, said.
The program provides participants with a generous scholarship and 160 hours of interaction with officers while increasing their community knowledge, exploring issues which affect the community, and creating a platform from which to envision a better future for themselves and Charlotte.
"The Envision Academy and mentors have a genuine care for the youth of the city," Kiara Maldonado, Envision Academy scholar, said. "They are doing something extra for the youth of Charlotte."
While many of the host sites were businesses, the scholars also spent time at Urban Ministry Center, which is an interfaith organization dedicated to bringing the community together to end homelessness.
"Urban Ministries was my favorite spot because of the services they offer," Chastidy Adkins, CMPD Envision Academy scholar, said. "It's an amazing thing that they are doing for the people with needs in Charlotte.
Over the course of the program, they also visited hosts sites like Atrium Health, Lowe's, Carolina Panthers and Bank of America. They also came to the studios at WSOC-TV.
Each of the host sites gave an overview of different career paths that are available that covered a wide range of opportunities from pediatric nursing to television anchor, blue-collar work to community advocacy.
Each week focused on a broad theme that is supported by local businesses and nonprofits: Envision Orientation; Envision Government, Politics & Justice; Envision the City; Envision the Environment; Envision the Economy; Envision Health and Human Services; Envision Education; Envision the Future.
While the presentations were supposed to give the highlights of the scholars' favorite experiences and what they learned during the program, the positive relationships that were built between the scholars and the police officers was very apparent.
One of the most poignant moments was when one of the young ladies was overwhelmed with emotion and shared one of the officers had been like a father figure she never had.
It was clear by the end of the presentations that these young adults gained much more than experience and the relationships will last a lifetime.
"My greatest surprise was being introduced to some fantastic people," Marcus Mejias, CMPD Envision Academy scholar, said. "We all have great laughs and deep conversations all day, every day and plan to continue our journeys together even after this program finishes."
Putney looked to the group of youth and said, "You are CMPD family."
If you have an inspiring story to share, email Kevin Campbell, WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte public affairs manager, at Kevin.Campbell@wsoctv.com.
PHOTOS: CMPD Envision Academy at WSOCTV
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