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13-year-old Camp Cadet grad: ‘I like challenging myself’

Photo submitted to Times Observer Conner Younger with platoon leader Trooper Robert Harris, of the Pennsylvania State Police, Erie Headquarters station.

Conner Younger wants to be a game commissioner.

For now, the 13-year-old home school student from Sugar Grove will have to settle for volunteering at bear stations, being part of the Explorers post, and attending Camp Cadet, from which he returned this week.

Camp Cadet is a five-day training experience for children ages 13 to 15 who live in the Pennsylvania State Police Troop E patrol areas of Erie, Crawford, Warren, and Venango counties. Camp is held at Allegheny College in Meadville. Those attending camp reported on Sunday, June 18.

Each day at camp, said Younger, starts at 5:30 a.m., with a flag-raising ceremony and morning physical training (PT). Morning PT, said Conner, was his favorite part of the camp experience.

“I just like seeing how much I can do and trying to do more. I like challenging myself,” said Younger.

In addition to “intense physical training,” according to a release from PSP about the camp, cadets also learn to march in formation, attend instructional classroom seminars, and learn about things like felony traffic stops, radar speed devices, taser use, and building searches. Cadets attend training on forensics, clandestine meth lab investigations, and polygraph, criminal investigation, and computer crimes. Cadets are also able to explore the PSP helicopter with members of the PSP Special Emergency Response Team (SERT).

This year, according to the release, North East Erie County District Judge Scott Hammer explained judicial duties presiding at criminal cases initiated by law enforcement, and a K9 attack dog demonstration was held.

Each evening cadets participated in field competition games, including push ups, sit ups, obstacle courses, ball games, and a water slide event. Younger said that although it sounds like a pretty strict, humorless experience, it was anything but. “One time the sergeant got in our faces and told us we were being disrespectful and stuff, and they told us to get out of our uniforms and put on our street clothes, but then they took us to a dance.” Another time cadets were told they were going on a seven mile mud run only to discover a hug slip and slide set up for them.

Younger was the only Warren resident who took part in the camp this year.

“It’s a shame,” said his father, Steven. “I couldn’t recommend this program more highly.

“I think it’s a tremendous opportunity,” said Steven, who said that he saw a change in demeanor in Conner and all of the kids after their week at camp.

“Some of the kids didn’t think they could do it, the PT and stuff,” said Conner. “But they did and the felt good about themselves afterward.”

Conner said one of the things he enjoyed as much as PT was getting to do a forensic handprint exercise.

“It was just amazing to see how they carried themselves by the end of the week,” said Steven.

Drill formation inspections were performed by Troop E Commander Captain James Basinger. All of the training exercises cadets go through during the week are designed to culminate in formal platoon marching drills during graduation.

Graduation ceremonies were held at 6 p.m. on Friday, June 23, at the Wise Sport and Fitness Center in Meadville.

Conner said that anyone who’s interested in law enforcement would love Camp Cadet. He said that he wants to be a game commissioner because he likes the respect that comes with the position, and also the fact that he’d be working outdoors a lot.

Pizza Hut donates certificates to kids who want to attend Camp Cadet, as the cost to attend is $100 per person. But, said Steven, if a cadet can sell twenty $5 Pizza Hut certificates, camp is paid for.

In addition to volunteering at bear weighing stations, Conner also volunteers at Miracle Mountain Ranch in the operation shop and paintball areas, and he participates in Eisenhower football, baseball, and basketball.

Conner will be entering 8th grade this year.

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