NCSO Youth Leadership Academy Celebrates Twentieth Year of Helping Youth Conquer Fears


Photo by Caroline Killilea. At the Youth Leadership Academy, a camper reaches for the ball at the top of the ropes course, while suspended in mid-air.

By Caroline Killilea, News Intern

On Friday, July 22, 2022 in Braintree, the Norfolk County Sheriff’s Office celebrated the 20th anniversary of its Youth Leadership Academy. Throughout the summer, the academy hosts children of ages 10 to 14 for week-long sessions of the program, aimed at helping Norfolk County youth develop decision-making and goal-setting skills that they can carry with them throughout high school. The sessions are held in Braintree and a recent, new location, Franklin.

Participants are encouraged to conquer their fears on a ropes challenge course, which includes a zip line and rock climbing wall, among a number of other amenities. Over 15,000 participants have come through the academy over the past twenty years, many of whom return as interns, peer leaders, and counselors.

Photo by Caroline Killilea. Campers wait to take their turn on the zip line.

When asked about what motivates families to partake in the camp, Norfolk County Sheriff Patrick McDermott commented, “Parents know [their kids] are getting a good week’s worth of activities, but most importantly, the life lessons they’re learning are something they’re going to carry throughout high school.” The Sheriff also said that the program incorporates the learning aspect in a way that is fun and engaging for children. “The curriculum itself is almost hidden within the fun, and I think that’s what’s most attractive,” he said.

Photo by Caroline Killilea. A participant swings from the ropes course.

The Youth Leadership Academy teaches self-confidence and cooperation using a challenge-by-choice method, which gives participants the freedom to set their own goals.

Director Matt Lowe noted, “We never know what’s going to be challenging for kids. Some kids will climb the ladder and high-five the pole and climb back down again, and some of them will climb up to the top and jump off. It’s really up to the kids to choose the challenge.” Lowe also explained that after every activity, campers are asked to think about the lessons they learned and how to carry those lessons with them in the future.

Photo by Caroline Killilea. Multiple students can use the popular four-sided climbing wall at the same time.

The Youth Leadership Academy draws residents from all over Norfolk County, especially after a second location opened in Franklin last year. Online registration for this summer's one-week sessions opened in spring this year.The session starting on July 18th saw kids from Braintree, Quincy, and Weymouth, making up some of the 120 campers who took part in the week of fun.  Congratulations to the Youth Leadership Academy on 20 years of adventure in Norfolk County!

Photo by Caroline Killilea. Sheriff Patrick McDermott addresses the graduates of the Youth Leadership Academy.

Westwood Minute welcomes high school senior Caroline Killilea to this platform as a News Intern. Thank you for reporting on this event, Caroline! 

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