"Keep going! You can do it!" rang throughout the gymnasium at the Vancouver Police Museum on March 19 as students from around the Vancouver area were sweating their way through a physical fitness test designed for police officers.
The students were participating in the Police Officer's Physical Abilities Test (POPAT) as part of the 2013 Student Challenge - an annual eight-day event run by the Vancouver Police Department that gives students an opportunity to experience firsthand what it is like being a police officer.
Constable Heather Partridge is the program co-ordinator for the Student Challenge and believes that the program is a valuable tool for students.
"I think the program is a great partnership between the Vancouver School Board, the Vancouver Police Foundation and the VPD Crime Prevention Society," she said. "The students really benefit from this experience."
Many of the teens who signed up for the program, including grade 12 student Emily Mok from Gladstone Secondary, did so to get a feel for a career in law enforcement.
"I just wanted to experience what police officers go through," said Mok. "I want to pursue something law enforcement related and I thought this would be a good way to see what it's like."
Henry Orsina, a grade 12 student from Templeton Secondary School, was one of the first people to complete the obstacle course and was pleased with his performance.
"I'm feeling not so bad - a bit tired - but not so bad," he said. "I feel like I could have pushed it a bit harder near the end though."
He also said that he was fairly confident going into the POPAT.
"We got to try out the equipment yesterday and get a feel for it," he explained. "So we knew what to expect."
Meagan Kaisers, a grade 12 Kitsilano Secondary student, said that even though she lives a pretty active lifestyle, the POPAT was still a challenge.
"I play soccer and I'm recovering from an injury from that," she said. "But it's still pretty challenging."
Const. Partridge says that the Student Challenge program is gaining popularity among students.
"[The application process] is pretty competitive - to the point of turning people away," she said. "This year 250 students applied and we can only take in 48."
Other than the physical challenges that the POPAT presents, students also receive classroom sessions where they learn about legal studies, investigation and patrol strategies, human relations and community leadership. Various specialized members of the Vancouver police force, such as the Drug Unit, Homicide Unit and the Dog Squad also provide lectures and demonstrations for the students.
The program culminates in a three-night camp component where the students participate in team-building challenges, patrol shift simulations and an outdoor fitness course.
At the end of the eight-day program, students will receive a certificate recognizing their commitment and effort to the Student Challenge at a formal graduation ceremony at Prince of Wales Secondary school on March 24.
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