Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

This Day Camp 'Is Not a Game'; Students Exhibiting High-Risk Behavior Can Be XRAYD

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

This Day Camp 'Is Not a Game'; Students Exhibiting High-Risk Behavior Can Be XRAYD

Article excerpt


The 18 students immediately stopped laughing when Sgt. Don Tuten of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office reminded them where they were.

"This is not a game," he said.

Standing in the middle of the ropes course at the Montgomery Correctional Center off Lannie Road in North Jacksonvillle, the students were not at a typical day camp. They were at Camp XRAYD.

The Police Athletic League of Jacksonville hosts Camp XRAYD, which stands for Examining the Realities About Your Decisions, for students ages 10-17 who have participated in high-risk behaviors, according to Lt. Bobby Deal, executive director of the league.

"[They are] ungovernable, not listening to parents, problems in the household," he said.

The students are referred to the league for Camp XRAYD by School Resource Officers or parents. The one-day camp is designed to teach students about their possible future if they continue in the behaviors, said Deal.

When the students arrive on camp day at 5:30 a.m., they are given a drug test to determine whether they can participate. Then they are prepared for the 12-hour day ahead.

"It was really disciplined and boot-camplike," said Nick Hankins, 16, a Southside resident who attended the camp.

According to Hankins, the students saw many situations that showed them where their decisions could lead. They went to Shands Jacksonville's emergency room and trauma unit, the Montgomery Correctional Center and the Duval County jail.

Hankins said the reality of the hospital affected his view on his decisions most.

"Most of these kids haven't been exposed to that," said Deal.

The students were then escorted by police to the Montgomery Correctional Center, where they were shackled and put in jumpsuits, according to Deal. Then they ate lunch with the inmates, who were not censored in what they could say.

"It's real life in the jail," said Deal.

Hankins said when they arrived at the facility, they were asked why they were attending the camp. The students' answers were not loud enough, said Hankins. The officers in the jail said if they were truly proud of their actions, they needed to shout their answers.

"Of course, we weren't proud of them," Hankins said.

After lunch, the students stayed at the facility to participate in the obstacle and ropes courses used by the SWAT team for training, Deal said. Both courses are designed to teach the students to depend on other people.

"They can't get through life by themselves," said Deal. "They need other people. …

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