Kids’ summers are most often associated with beaches, vacations, and summer camp.
But while most kids attend camps geared at activities such as sports, crafts, or computers, one 15-year-old Hiawatha resident had the opportunity to attend a camp that teaches leadership, safety, and camaraderie.
Molly Hembera, daughter of Jeff and Joann Hembera and a 10th grader at Cedar Valley Christian School, attended the FBI Youth Leadership Training camp June 13-20 in Quantico, Virginia.
Her dad, Jeff, a police officer with the Cedar Rapids Police Department, explained that every year the FBI National Academy Associates (FBINAA) hosts a weeklong training event for high school students at the FBI Academy. Qualified candidates must be 14, 15, or 16 years old at the start date of the program.
Jeff went through training at the academy in 2013 and is a member of the local chapter. He said the program is designed to help local police officers and FBI agents work together more effectively.
Candidates who attend the camp are nominated by a graduate of the program. According to Jeff, 60 kids participated in the camp this year, some from different parts of the world such as Austria, Australia, Puerto Rico, and Canada.
“There is usually only one student nominated from each state each year, but the program is now reaching other parts of the world,” said Jeff.
Molly said she has always been interested in law enforcement and definitely sees a future doing something pertaining to the field.
“I think enjoyed learning about how to become a better leader, but I would much rather focus on another aspect, such as forensics,” she said.
Molly, who participates in sports and sings in her school choir, is also active in her church’s youth group. She said she thinks that being an athlete helped her get through the physical training they endured.
“We had to get up at 5:30 and do physical training and then attend classes all day,” she said.
She added that classes included how to be a more effective leader and safety.
“We learned a lot about how work together, how to be a better leader, and also how to stay safe, especially on the internet.”
To be selected for the camp, a student must have demonstrated high academic standards and good citizenship. Those nominated then go through an interview process. Jeff said six students were nominated from Iowa this year.
Molly said she enjoyed the experience, especially meeting different people.
“Most of us were a little shy at first, but once we spent time together, we all became good friends,” she said.
One example, she said, was the obstacle course the team had to go through to complete their training.
“The obstacle course had a ‘Wizard of Oz’ theme,” said Jeff. “At the end of the course they were given a gold brick that had the name of their unit stenciled on it.”
“We had an hour and a half to finish it, but everyone finished in under 50 minutes,” said Molly. “Those of us who finished first went back to encourage the others. We had a lot of fun.”
Molly said she enjoyed the experience and is happy she was given the opportunity to participate.
“I think the most important thing I learned from the experience is that being a leader doesn’t just mean you lead a group of people. You have to listen to other people’s opinions, to what they have to say and work together to come up with a solution.”