Lakeland police's 'Summer Trades Camp' expands to east Polk County due to growing popularity

Kids in Polk County are keeping busy this summer, learning different vocational trades while working with law enforcement.

The Lakeland Police Department is hosting a third year of its "Summer Trades Camp" at the IES Center on US-98 in north Lakeland.

"I wasn't that interested in trades before the camp, but when I came, I got more of an understanding and more knowledge in the trades and all of the things you can do," said 16-year-old Quantis Bush. 

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He participated in the camp last year, but this year, he's an intern, helping out the instructors.

"I decided to return, because first of all, it was a great program, and Joe Parker, he's an amazing person," said Bush. "He makes you feel very welcome, so I wanted to come back for him and for the other people, because this camp is very interactive and educational."

Joe Parker's a carpenter and a lieutenant with LPD. He's the founder of the 10-day camp, and said he wants high schoolers to understand how important the trades are as an alternative to college, but also in everyday life.

"As consumers, they're educated when they need something repaired at their house, or they can be an eligible consumer when they go out and hire someone to do the work," said Parker.

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Part of the program's design is so police can have positive engagement with the youth in their neighborhood.

"We all know the Lakeland cops are cool, but we want kids from those neighborhoods to understand the cops in their neighborhood are cool too," said Parker. "When they do respond to an emergency in their neighborhood they know there's a trust already built in to those kids, and they're local first responders and that's why it's important."

It's a program Bush said he enjoys being a part of and encourages others to give it a try.

"Interacting with law think it would be scary, but they're actually pretty comforting, and they're parental figures, and they make me feel welcome," said Bush.

Parker said more kids have been signing up for the camp, and so, because of the program's popularity, a second camp will be held next Monday in east Polk County with other partnering law enforcement agencies.


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