The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

July 11, 2014

Ardmore junior attends FBI Academy

— Seth Harris, 16, admits the hardest part of his recent trip to the FBI Academy in Virginia had to be the “Yellow Brick Road” — a 4-mile physical-fitness challenge similar to the course FBI agents must complete.

The rising Ardmore junior was the only student in the state to participate in the eight-day Youth Leadership Program at the facility in Quantico.

The program, sponsored by the FBI National Academy Associates, brings together top students from across the United States and five countries. Its goal is to provide an “exciting” experience for students ages 14-16, who have not yet started their junior year of high school.

The application process begins with a questionnaire and an essay, Harris said. A panel of judges — that must select one student to represent each state as well as Puerto Rico and other countries, including Australia, Belgium and Switzerland — also interviews each applicant.

The Alabama chapter of the FBINAA sponsors each student chosen to represent the state and covers all expenses, including round-trip airfare to Washington, D.C.

Harris, the son of Trevor and Carol Harris, learned about the program from his father, who is an Athens Police captain and a 2010 graduate of the FBI National Academy.

“My dad is a National Academy associate,” said Harris. “That is a program where police officers can apply to go to the FBI facilities for law-enforcement training.”

The younger Harris attended the program’s 16th session, which took place June 18-26. While in Quantico, he attended classes on leadership, ethics, constitutional law and public speaking. He also participated in a strenuous physical-fitness program.

“The biggest thing that stands out is that I got to meet a lot of new people,” Harris said. “People who are lifelong friends now.”

He went into the program not knowing anyone or even what to expect, but he said the experience helped him come out of his shell.

“I could probably go up and talk to anyone now,” he said. “I had to learn to talk to 58 new people from different states and different backgrounds. I realized I’m going to spend eight days with these people. I’ve got to start getting to know them.”

His roommate was from Australia.

“He lived on the Gold Coast of Australia and I think he played soccer,” Harris said. “We became pretty good friends.”

The hardest part of the trip was the “Yellow Brick Road,” Harris said.

“We could walk some of it and run some of it,” he said. “It’s a 4-mile course they made that has obstacles. You would run to a point and they would say, ‘OK, do some bear crawls or crab crawls’ or you would have to get over a wall or something. We did that in about an hour.”

Harris explained it wasn’t a race. Participants weren’t worried about finishing first. It was more about getting across the finish line.

“When we finished, we received a yellow brick,” Harris said, adding that his parents traveled to Virginia to watch him graduate.

After the eight-day program was complete, Harris returned home with a new set of skills. “I’ve learned more leadership skills,” he said. “I’ve learned how to work better with people as well as the different types of leadership and when to use them. It taught me there are different methods for everything.”

The experience was important to Harris.

“Not a lot of people get this opportunity,” he said. “I learned a lot there. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’m just glad I got to go.”

Harris plans to use his new leadership skills as trombone section leader in the Ardmore High School band as well as in his role as sub-team captain on his robotics team at the Limestone County Career Technical Center.

“This will really help me step up into that position,” he said.

Eligible students with an interest in law enforcement and attending the Youth Leadership Program can contact Capt. Harris at the Police Department each January to request an application.

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