In 2002, Sheriff Bellotti launched a summer Youth Leadership Academy centered our extensive high and low element ropes course at the Norfolk Sheriff’s Office Public safety complex in Braintree. Operating on a philosophy of “Challenge by Choice” the academy encourages young people to operate outside their comforts zones. The academy focuses on team building, anti-bullying, resisting peer pressure, increasing self-confidence and setting personal goals. Participants are also taught about fire safety, the dangers of drugs, and the role of Sheriff’s Office. While no participant is required to climb every element, or complete any activity they are uncomfortable with, many find themselves surpassing their own expectations of what they are capable of achieving.
Each summer, the Youth Leadership Academy serves approximately 1,400 young people between the ages of 10 and 14 over nine one-week sessions. It is our hope that these children entering their formative years will gain the skills to say no to peer pressure and negative influences and develop positive decision making and leadership skills. In addition, over 100 young people aged 15-18 serve as volunteer peer leaders assisting academy staff and providing guidance to younger participants.