Samantha Moulder admits firing a gun for the first time was scary, but also exciting.
Moulder, 16, was one of about three dozen participants that drove to a gun range in Cumming in late February to take a firearms training course offered through the Dawson County Sheriff's Citizens Law Enforcement Academy.
"I was very nervous," she said smiling afterwards. "I'd feel comfortable now in the event that I had to shoot a gun."
Now in its 12th year, the academy was designed to give residents an inside look at how local law enforcement operates. The five-week course includes a tour of the jail, class time detailing the various departments, hands-on components and a ride along with a patrol officer.
Organizers added the firearms training element at the request of participants a few years ago.
Donna Weaver said she was glad to have a handgun refresher course taught by trained officers.
"I felt like it gave me more confidence and the skill set I need to keep it in the house," she said.
For Weaver, the academy also gave her a better understanding of local law enforcement and what they do to keep Dawson County safe.
"I pray for the sheriff and all of the sheriff's deputies, and I'm now more informed about their job," she said. "They put their lives on the line every day and I think I'm more informed now about the various aspects of the sheriff's office."
Sheriff Billy Carlisle said he considers the knowledge citizens gain and the information they take home from the academy as encouragement to continue offering the program annually.
"This gives them first-hand knowledge of what we do here day-to-day. So many times the only contact the public has is with patrol deputies, so this introduces them to the other side of law enforcement," Carlisle said.
The academy is offered annually by the sheriff's office. For more information about the next class, call (706) 344-3535.