Teens To Graduate From Aurora's Law Enforcement Youth Academy

Bernie Tafoya
July 31, 2019 - 10:23 am
Founder/director Pam Bradley and the 51 teens in this summer’s academy

WBBM Newsradio/Bernie Tafoya


CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Teenagers will be graduating Wednesday night from a special seven-week program that gives them a taste of what policing in Aurora is all about. 

Pam Bradley started Aurora’s Law Enforcement Youth Academy 17-years ago as a way to clear up some myths among teens about what police do. 

"I always wanted to know what I could do to make a difference for youth..and then I would hear youth in the community say they were afraid of police…didn’t like the police, because that’s all they basically kind of saw in their communities," Bradley said.

"I started with seven youth and...I can proudly say, we have 51 graduates [this year>. So, we’re looking at close to 500 students have graduated from this program."

Front row: Suzie Gonzalez, Melody Gonzalez, Elizabeth Morales; Back row: Officer Daniel Gray, Kyle Rasmussen, Jose Vasquez Jr.
WBBM Newsradio/Bernie Tafoya

Melody Gonzalez, 17, calls the program a "real eye-opener".

"I kind of viewed it as scary, watch out for the police, don’t get in their way. Now I see them. They really do want to help people out. They, generally, care. They put their lives on the line," Gonzalez said.

Elizabeth Morales' attitude about police has changed in the past seven weeks.

"Now I see that, oh, they’re not the bad guys. They’re trying to catch the bad guys," the 16-year old said.

Now, Morales said she wants to be a SWAT or gang crimes officer.

Aurora Police
WBBM Newsradio/Bernie Tafoya

Jose Vasquez Jr., 17, wants to be a corrections officer after, what he said was, his father wrongly having to spend time behind bars.

"I’ve always loved police. My aunt actually works for the Aurora Police Department," Vasquez said.

Teenager Kyle Rasmussen said he now would like to be an FBI agent or SWAT officer after working out with police and seeing what they do.

"I never really disliked police, but you think they’re scary. They carry a gun. They have like all that stuff on their belt and stuff like that so you didn’t want to interact with them necessarily," he said.

Officer Daniel Gray, Officer Ray Morris, Founder/director Pam Bradley, Officer Nikole Petersen
WBBM Newsradio/Bernie Tafoya

Officer Daniel Gray is one of three officers who have worked out with the teens, motivated them and gave them a taste of police work.

"It’s been very interesting, very awesome to watch the dedication and hard-work that these kids have put into it," Officer Gray said.

Besides having interactions with Aurora police, teens in the youth academy sit in on court cases, meet judges, prosecutors, and federal agents from the FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration. 

Bradley said the program is funded by the Dunham Foundation.