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Virginia Police Chiefs Target Virginia Schools Youth for Leadership Training

After the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado in 1999, the Virginia police departments across the commonwealth quickly introduced tactical training for police and school resource officers (SROs). They were taught several methods for handling Virginia schools’ students with weapons.

Members of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police wanted to do more than just react to situations in the Virginia schools. They wanted to take preventative measures. So, in 2002, the Commonwealth Youth Conference for Leadership Effectiveness (CYCLE) was created.

CYCLE is a one-week, leadership training program for Virginia schools’ students who are entering high school. Held once every summer at Virginia Tech’s campus in Blacksburg, Virginia, it has become one of the most successful and meaningful programs for Virginia schools’ youth, focusing on the basics of leadership.

Virginia schools’ students are given the opportunity to:

• Gain an understanding of their own leadership potential,
• Identify positive leadership characteristics,
• Gain a better understanding of themselves,
• Learn how to better relate to others,
• Learn to use effective communication to foster positive interactions,
• Gain problem analysis skills to assist in decision making,
• Understand the value of teamwork,
• Understand their own role within their communities, and
• Learn and embrace values of diversity.

The hopeful result of the program is to provide Virginia schools’ students with skills to help them become valuable and contributing members of society, as well as to make Virginia communities safer places to live. If Virginia schools’ children are given leadership skills and positive reinforcement, then situations such as Columbine may be forestalled.

To attend CYCLE, Virginia schools’ students must go through a lengthy application process. The selection process begins in the fall of each year with interested Virginia schools’ students applying to their school’s SRO. Accepted applicants and their parents receive notification from their SROs in early May of the following year. The selection process ensures that all areas throughout the commonwealth are properly represented each year at CYCLE.

The program looks for the “rising” 10th grade students — those with recognized leadership potential, who have not yet found their place in the world. Virginia schools’ students must be:

• Recommended by their school’s SRO,
• A rising student, entering the 10th grade at application,
• Between the ages of 13 and 15 years,
• Have no major infractions on their discipline records,
• Have a minimum grade point average of 2.0,
• Complete an essay on an assigned topic, and
• Provide a letter of support for their desire to attend CYCLE, which may be written by anyone chosen by the student.

CYCLE is sponsored and chaired by the Virginia Police Chief’s Foundation, the charitable and educational arm of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police. They work with corporations, civic groups, police agencies, and citizens to raise the needed funds to support CYCLE. The current cost of 0 per Virginia schools’ student is occasionally underwritten totally by a police department’s training budget for the youth in its jurisdiction. This covers tuition, lodging, meals and learning materials. The local police departments in which students reside always supply the transportation. CYCLE is always provided entirely at no cost to the students.

Thanks to the Police Chiefs of Virginia and the work of police departments across the commonwealth, Virginia schools’ students are given the opportunity to participate in an exceptionally unique program that may affect the rest of their lives, as well as many others.

About the Author: Patricia Hawke is a staff writer for Schools K-12, providing free, in-depth reports on all U.S. public and private K-12 schools. Patricia has a nose for research and writes stimulating news and views on school issues. For more information on Virginia schools visit

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