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Youth Mentorship Program Aims to Build Relationships and Teach Leadership Skills

Authentic bonds can be built where and when you least expect it. The Michigan State Police (MSP) Michigan Youth Leadership Academy (MiYLA™), which is resuming for the first time since 2020, uses youth mentorship to form an important connector between youth and police.

The voluntary five-day, overnight program, which is led by the MSP Prevention Services Section with the help of MSP community service troopers (CST), welcomes students ages 14 and 15 from select cities and provides them with the opportunity to learn leadership skills and build positive relationships with police and community members built on a foundation of responsibility, respect and trust. 

This summer, the MSP will be hosting sessions for youth who live in Kalamazoo (teen girls), Lansing (teen boys) and Port Huron (teen boys).

“When I was that age, I was challenged with navigating my parents’ divorce. It was a tough time for me and I needed further support outside of my home,” said Tpr. Ronnie Evans, the CST assigned to the Lansing Post and leader of the MiYLA™ Lansing session. “My sister introduced me to a similar program. That’s where I gained mentors, learned leadership and teambuilding skills and met friends my age. I probably wouldn’t be where I am now had I not gone through that program.”

Trooper Evans’ experience led him to the path of becoming a police officer, where he now has the opportunity to work with his fellow troopers and local officers to give back to other youth through the MiYLA™ program.

“It’s not about encouraging them to become cops,” said Sgt. Cabria Shirley, another leader of the MiYLA™ program from the MSP Prevention Services Section.  “It’s about breaking down barriers and having real genuine conversations about real-life issues, like violence in relationships, drug use, even preparing them for job interviews. A modern police agency recognizes that policing is about more than just enforcing the law and this program is a perfect example of our commitment.”

Each day of the federally funded program starts with an activity that promotes physical health, followed by a team-building exercise and a skills learning session, such as motivational speaking, personal first-aid, water safety or building healthy relationships. Students also take tours of the Michigan State Capitol and Michigan State University, and participate in fun activities, like snorkeling in the MSP Training Academy pool and driving at the MSP’s Precision Driving Facility.

“The program is operated by the MSP in partnership with police officers from the local community who are all connected through their devotion to youth mentorship,” said Tpr. Conner Mabie, Paw Paw Post CST, Fifth District field recruiter and leader of the Kalamazoo MiYLA™ school. “I really enjoy connecting with young women because I know firsthand how inspirational and essential it is for them to see women in leadership. I know I wouldn’t be who I am today without my female mentors.”

The program concludes on the fifth day with a community service project in their hometown followed by a graduation ceremony that always leaves students feeling accomplished and family members and friends proud and grateful.

“A lot of times students stay connected with their mentors from the program,” said Sergeant Shirley. “In one instance, one of our students got in trouble and reached out to one of our sergeants for support. That’s the type of bond we build in the program. It’s about pulling the curtain back and letting them know we’re real people here to support them.”

Interested students can apply through their school or by contacting the trooper listed below. This year’s program dates and application deadlines are set for:

Kalamazoo Girls MiYLA™ school: 6/11/23-6/15/23 
Application deadline: Thursday, June 1, 2023
Tpr. Conner Mabie - 269-308-1567 

Lansing Boys MiYLA™ school: 6/25/23-6/29/23
Application deadline: Thursday, June 15, 2023
Tpr. Ronnie Evans - 517-388-9363

Port Huron Boys MiYLA™ school: 7/23/23-7/27/23
Application deadline: Thursday, July 13, 2023
Tpr. Gerald Bockhausen – 810-358-8090

The MSP has hosted the MiYLA™ since 2005. Over 1,200 students have attended, representing the cities of Benton Harbor, Battle Creek, Big Rapids, Detroit, Flint, Houghton Lake, Inkster, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Muskegon, Muskegon Heights, Niles, Pontiac, Saginaw and Ypsilanti. Click here to learn more about the program.

This project is supported by # 15PBJA-22-GG-00642-MUMU, awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and administered by the Michigan State Police (MSP). Points of view or opinions contained within this document do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the DOJ or the MSP.