Law Enforcement Applications being accepted now for 2017 Sheriff’s Youth Leadership Academy | The Cullman Tribune

Law Enforcement

Applications being accepted now for 2017 Sheriff’s Youth Leadership Academy

Last year's Sheriff's Youth Leadership Academy class

CULLMAN - Sheriff Matt Gentry and his staff at the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) have a vision for reaching out to the youth of Cullman County.  It’s evident in the CCSO’s support of Special Olympics, and in the Sheriff’s Rodeo.  Last year, the department started another new program for high school students: the Sheriff’s Youth Leadership Academy (SYLA), to introduce them to law enforcement and help develop their leadership abilities.  The program continues this year, and will take place July 10-14, based at Wallace State.

Who should come?

The SYLA is open students who will be juniors and seniors in the next school year, and who have their driver’s licenses.  The ability to drive is required because activities will take place at several locations around the county, including Wallace State in Hanceville, the sheriff’s office in Cullman and the Cullman County Fire Association training center in Vinemont.

The program may not be for everyone.  Gentry explained, “It’s a week-long academy, and it’s 40 hours.  For participants, we look for those in high school: 10th, 11th and 12th grades, that can drive.  How they get accepted is they have to write a resume and an essay to why they should be accepted in the academy.  It’s not just sign up and do it; they have to do some work to get into this academy.”

What does the CCSO look for in these applications?  According to Gentry, “Just those individuals that possess the desire or the want to be good leaders, to make a change in their community, that want to be part of something more than what they’re doing currently in school.  We want somebody that wants to be engrossed with law enforcement, leadership and their community.”

What will they do?

Starting around 5:30 a.m. (That’s in the morning!) on July 10, accepted students will arrive at Wallace State and get ready for physical fitness training.  Then they will move into a combination of classes and outdoor exercises.

“They will have guest speakers, a bunch of team-building and leadership exercises, community leaders and business owners that come in and talk to them,” said Gentry.  “To finish it, last year we did a paintball exercise at Mt. Doom, and then we had graduation.  We do everything from classwork, PT (physical training) early in the morning, to rappelling.  They also have to read a book, ‘The Killer Angels,’ about the leaders in the Civil War, and write an essay on that book, on leadership.”

Lt. Rex Sorrow, who will be running the day-to-day activities of the SYLA, gave more details:

“It’s going to be in various different places.  We won’t be at Wallace State all the time (which is why participants must be able to drive).  We’ll be coming back to the sheriff’s office to do a tour of the office and the jail.  We’ll be carrying them out to the range to fire weapons.  We’ll be taking them through a SWAT team demo, where they’ll be able to get in line with a SWAT team as they go through and clear a house.  We have the ropes course that’s going to be available to them.  We’re going to take them up to the fire association’s training center at Vinemont; they have a 40-foot tower, and we’re going to do some rappelling.

“We’re going to have great speakers coming in from various areas of life: attorneys, some of the judges, some very impressive business people here locally.  I have a World War II veteran who served at the Battle of the Bulge, with some great stories to tell."

When and how do students apply?

“We’re taking applications right now,” said Sorrow.  “We’re trying to get with all the high schools, including private schools; any school that’s in Cullman County.  If they’re a sophomore or junior (right now), they qualify for the SYLA.  We’re asking any of the students that’s interested to apply for that.  We have applications at all the schools, so all they have to do is stop by the office and pick up an application.”

Applications will be accepted until the end of the school year in May.

For more information and coming updates, visit the SYLA Facebook page at

At a glance:

  • Cullman County Sheriff’s Youth Leadership Academy
  • July 10-14, 2017, based at Wallace State
  • Open to students who will be juniors and seniors in the next school year, and who can drive
  • Applications available from school offices or school resource deputies
  • Applications accepted until the end of the school year


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