36 area youth graduate sheriff’s leadership academy


The 2017 Sheriff’s Youth Leadership Academy class prepares to graduate Friday evening, July 14, 2017. / W.C. Mann

CULLMAN – On Friday, 36 area students completed the Sheriff’s Youth Leadership Academy (SYLA), a five-day intensive course sponsored by the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO).  During the week, they met at 5:45 each morning for physical training (PT), followed by a variety of classes and hands-on experiences, including:

  • Meeting and hearing the stories of World War II veterans, including Cullman’s Roy Drinkard.
  • Team-building ropes and obstacle courses
  • Climbing, rappelling and ziplining
  • Shooting on the CCSO gun range, and experiencing shoot/don’t shoot scenarios with a firearm simulator
  • Working side-by-side with CCSO deputies to experience law enforcement emergency response tactics
  • Visiting the County Detention Center

In its second year, SYLA made a leap from 12 students to 36, with at least two students from the first class returning. 

Sheriff Matt Gentry addressed the students and their families at the graduation ceremony.

“I want to thank all of these young leaders for the ambition to give up a week of their time to come and be with us,” he began. “We live in a time and a day that is uncertain; we live in a time and a day when there’s a lot of negativity.  We see a lot of bad things, and one of the things we talked about this week was making the good outweigh the bad.  And it gives me hope, when I look and we have 36 young leaders in our community that one day may be the sheriff, may be the president over Wallace State Community College.  They’re going to be doctors and lawyers, and do all kind of great things in this world.  It gives me hope that we could have a President of the United States sitting in here today.”

Gentry talked about the difference between looking out for oneself and having the vision to make a positive impact on others.  He expressed hope in the sense of teamwork he saw in the students.  He set forth honor, courage and integrity–the three words found in the CCSO seal–as three tests that should be applied to all the students’ future decisions.

Wallace State Community College President Dr. Vicki Karolewics was the night’s keynote speaker, and shared Lee Iacocca’s “nine C’s of leadership” with the students: curiosity, creativity, communication, character, courage, conviction, charisma, competence and common sense.

The 36 students were assigned to one of four teams for the week.  Each team had an adult coach, either from the CCSO or Cullman Area Workforce Solutions at Wallace State.

“Team Eddleman”

Coach – career counselor Jennifer Eddleman

Captain – Bryson Fletcher

Klowy Jade Barrett

R.J. Bynum

Blake Christopher Burman

Peyton Oliver Dunn

Elijah Noah Edge

Karli Grace Mitchell

Breaunah Jean Smith

Tyler Matthew WIlliams

“Team Farnsworth”

Coach – career counselor Lisa Farnsworth

Captain – Tori Partridge

Brandon Hunter Bishop

Aaron Gene Brown

Ally Elizabeth Farnsworth

Emma Grace Farnsworth

Zachary Seth Hightower

Jesse Ryan Mayo

Daniel Ryan Ratliff

Lillian Sophia Roman

Leah Grace Tarvin

Brittany Erin Thomas

“Team Lawson”

Coach – Deputy Jeff Lawson

Captain – Truman Lee Boyd

Bridgette Cathryne Duke

Garret Dyle

Fulton Joseph Gil

Dylan Austin Harper

Stacy Elaine Harris

Michelle Herrick

Lucas Gage Suits

“Team Whaley”

Coach –  Deputy Chad Whaley

Captain – Zacharia Thomas/Andrew Williams (changed due to necessary absence)

Cheyenne Lynn Harper

Maggie Elizabeth Holloway

Luke Allen Marti

Briana Danielle Nicholson

Alesia Marie Taylor

Lacey Alexius Watts

Alexis Tierra White

The Tribune spoke with the team captains about their experiences.

Bryson Fletcher – “This week has given me more realism in law enforcement, and helped me realize that our officers in the county put on that uniform and put their lives in jeopardy for us.”

Favorite experiences: rappelling, ropes course

Truman Boyd – “This week really opened up my eyes, because you always hear about police officers risking their lives; but when it comes down to it, they actually do.  And it’s not just the police officers in uniform that make the CCSO run; it’s people at the jail also.  There’s many parts that play into it.  I was able to learn about all this stuff, and have more appreciation for it.”

Favorite experience: hearing the WWII veterans talk about their service

Tori Partridge – “Getting to form a relationship with all the officers has really been priceless, getting know all the people who serve and protect us every day, Then, just watching the leadership of all of us here grow has been amazing.  We come in as strangers, but grow as a team, and watch everybody’s leadership potential grow.”

Favorite experience: ropes course

Andrew Williams – “I can agree with everything they’ve said; and for me personally, I’ve been fascinated by everything we did this week.  I learned more from that, and experienced things I’ve never done before.”

Favorite experiences: shooting, rappelling

After the ceremony, Lt. Rex Sorrow, who headed up this year’s SYLA, shared, “Just for me, my perspective is that it’s just a huge honor to be a small part of the sheriff’s vision.  It’s a great program.  Students came out, not knowing what to expect, and in the end, I think they were very pleased with what we did, some of the activities we were involved in, and some of the things we put them through.  Nobody complained about anything.  Everybody came out smiling and had a good time.”

For more information about CCSO programs, including the Citizens’ Academy, coming later this summer, visit www.cullmansheriff.org.

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