Every year about this time, Lt. Tony Wooten with the Dawson County Sheriff's Office begins answering the question: "When can I sign my chid up for your junior law enforcement academy?"
The free, popular alternative to summer camp is now in its 13th season, and according to Wooten, expecting a record turn out.
"We know the economy is tough, and we learned last year some families were doing this instead of a vacation," Wooten said. "We've always taken pride that we've never turned down a kid for the academy. We try to make this available for everybody."
Beginning with 26 participants in 1998, the academy had grown to 170 cadets last year.
"Last year, we made some adjustments to cover the growth and are expanding on those adjustments this year," Wooten said.
Split this year into the three age-appropriate sessions, the free courses gives cadets a hands-on, simulated look at all aspects of local law enforcement -- from traffic stops and crime scene investigations, to firearm safety and S.W.A.T. training, among others.
"Just like with any school, a lower number of kids means they get more personal time with the instructors, so hopefully they will have even more fun this year," Wooten said.
Junior Law Enforcement Academy Session 1, for students in fifth grade for the 2010/2011 school year, will be June 7-11.
Junior Law Enforcement Academy Session 2, for students in sixth and seventh grades for the 2010/2011 school year, will be June 21-25.
Cadets must submit an essay outlining why they would like to attend junior law enforcement academy by April 23.
The advanced course, for students enrolled in eighth or ninth grades, is June 15-17 and open to the first 20 applicants.
All cadets must attend a Dawson County school or be home schooled and live in the county.
The academies run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and are held at Dawson County Middle School. Lunch and snacks will be served daily, and each cadet will receive a T-shirt to wear each day.
For more information, call at (706) 344-3535.