In 1970 ISP Sgt. Ernie Alder (PIO, ret.) saw the need for law enforcement and the youth of Indiana to connect in a non-threatening environment as the nation at that time was coming out of a decade of civic unrest. Using a summer camp atmosphere and the theme of introducing high school age boys to law enforcement career opportunities and the people in those careers, the ISP youth camp program was born. Adding programming for girls in 1973 as opportunities in this career field for women expanded nationally, the camps were staffed by Indiana State Police troopers (both male and female) supplemented by instructors from many areas of law enforcement and emergency services—local prosecutors, FBI agents, sheriffs’ departments, probation officers, EMTs and the like. After the first six years, programming was expanded from high school students to younger ages—first to fifth and sixth graders and then to junior high school age. With the addition of these programs, programming reached from fifth through twelfth graders, and it wasn’t at all unusual to have students return for multiple years.
As these camps approach the mid-century mark, more than 45,000 Hoosier youth have been afforded the opportunity to spend face time with law enforcement officers in a positive environment. Countless camp graduates have gone on to careers with the ISP or in other related fields; many camp graduates go on to be adult camp counselors after they begin their law enforcement careers. Due to the longevity of the program, many have completed their careers and have retired.
The Indiana State Police have allowed their troopers and staff members to volunteer and participate in the camp program as camp directors, counselors and staff. The camp program was provided and completely funded by the Indiana State Police until 2008. At that time, changes within the structure of our state government did not permit the ISP to continue providing the camp program. ISP felt the program was worth continuing and offered the sponsorship of the camp program to a support organization of the state police. The Indiana Troopers Association took over the administration of the camp program until 2010. In 2010, the camp program’s founder, Sgt. Erinie Alder (PIO Ret.), applied and received the 501c3 tax exemption status and started the Indiana Troopers Youth Services, Inc. with the sole purpose of continuing the ISP Summer Youth Camp Program. The ISP continues to provide support of the camp program in many ways. The “ITYS” is comprised of a Board of Directors who oversee the mission of the Indiana Troopers Youth Services. The Board of Directors is a group formed with current and retired ISP troopers along with civilians who have a strong determination to ensure the camp program is available for youth to have this great experience.
These camps today are held at college and university campuses across the state. For many Hoosier youth, this may be their first (and only) opportunity for a higher education experience and to get to know other young people from around the state. At a time when the State of Indiana is striving to raise the level of education for its citizens, this is a side benefit of these camps not to be taken lightly, as many engage in what may be described as an introduction to a mini law enforcement academy experience. In past years there have been three groups of camps. Career Camp: Freshman-Senior High, Law Camp: Seventh-Eighth Graders, and Respect for Law: Fifth and Sixth Graders.
An additional camp program was developed for at-risk youth from ages 11-14 and named Pioneer Camp. This program was developed for youth who need more structure, who are experiencing problems with their peers, having difficulty in school or who have had a minor interaction with law enforcement. These camps are held at state parks where youth can spend the week camping, hiking, fishing, cooking their own food, and getting to know the camp counselors on a more personal basis. Attendance to these camps are by recommendation only.
Over the years, service clubs such as Lions, Kiwanis, Optimist and Jaycees have lent their support to the camp program by providing scholarships to youth, providing meals, programs and overall financial support. We are very gracious to all who have assisted and supported the camp program.
We strive each year to continue to provide the summer camp program in coordination with the Indiana State Police to teach our youth to respect themselves, each other and the law.
For additional information of our history please visit the Indiana State Police Youth Services link. ISP Youth Services