Youth Trooper Academy takes place in Pierre

The American Legion and the South Dakota Department of Public Safety put the program on every year to give South Dakota students a look at what it is like to be a state trooper.
Published: Jul. 16, 2021 at 11:06 PM CDT
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PIERRE, S.D. - High school students from across South Dakota came to Pierre this week to go through the training of a South Dakota state trooper, and see if it may be for them.

“If a student has ever thought about joining law enforcement, this is their chance to experience it first hand,” said Col. Rick Miller, superintendent of the South Dakota Highway Patrol. “Some of our current troopers went through this academy as high school students and many of them have told us that being part of the Youth Academy deepened their desire to eventually join the Highway Patrol.”

The program is five days of training that includes everything a trooper would do through their training, such as classroom work, physical fitness, and training on the same exact equipment.

The Department of Public Safety and the American Legion put the camp on not just to give these kids a look into the life of a state trooper, but a look into the life of a leader as well.

Many who partake will go on to serve their state, or their country, in either a police force or the military.

“When I went through in Michigan, I always knew I wanted to go be in law enforcement,” said current State Trooper Joelle Schuknecht. “I didn’t know if I wanted to be a police department officer or a state trooper. After that week of going to Michigan’s trooper academy, it really solidified that I wanted to be a trooper.”

Despite the rigors of the training, the program retention rate has remained extremely high. Throughout the programs nine years of existence, not one mentee has gone home due to a lack of enjoyment.

“We’ve never lost one, after all these years,” said Larry Price, an American Legion member crucial to putting the program on. “Never has a student gone home because they weren’t happy or didn’t have a good time here. It has been fantastic.”

“It has helped me become disciplined in a certain aspect,” explained Oliviyah Thornton, Garretson resident. “It has opened my eyes a lot. I like the comradery, and how you have to work together on everything. It puts a big emphasis on this career for me... I know for sure now I want to do law enforcement or military one day.”

Graduates of the program and their high schools are as follows: Gelatea Pauling, Sturgis Brown; Shelby Swets, Spearfish; Riley Bock, Rapid City Central; Mitchell Miller, Rapid City Stevens; Noah Weishaar, New Underwood; Faith Maunu, Pierre T.F. Riggs; Andruw Fredericksen, Stanley County High School; Cole Peterson, Pierre T.F. Riggs; Adisson Westergren, Pierre T.F. Riggs; Darin McGaugh, Fredrick; Marcos Garcia, Groton; Cameron Schmidt, Redfield; Kolby Merkel, Clark; Trevor Donbroski, Deubrook; Wyatt Anderson, Willow Lake; Jasmine Feild, Huron; Nyomi Mahrt, Plankinton; Samantha Torguson, Iroquois; Porter Walz, Wessington Springs; Oliviyah Thornton, Garretson; Jaden Koll, Sioux Falls Roosevelt; Ashton Gabriel, Madison; and, Riley Folkers, Yankton.