In 1970, Indiana State Police Sergeant Ernie Alder saw the need for law enforcement and the youth of Indiana to connect in a positive 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 programs 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 including: local prosecutors, FBI agents, sheriffs’ departments, probation officers, EMS and the like. After the first six years, the program was expanded from only high school students to include younger ages of youth, beginning first with adding 5th and 6th grade programs and then expanding to include junior high school (7th and 8th grade). With the addition of these programs, the ISP Youth Camps ranged from 5th – 12th grades, and it wasn’t at all unusual to have students return for multiple years.
As these camps approached the mid-century mark, more than 45,000 Hoosier youth had been afforded the opportunity to spend face time with law enforcement officers in these camp environments. Countless camp graduates have gone on to careers with the ISP or in other related fields; many camp graduates have also gone on to be adult camp counselors after they begin their law enforcement careers. Due to the longevity of this program, many who have completed the camps have had careers in law enforcement and since 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, now retired Sgt. Erinie Alder applied for and received approval to start the not for profit organization, the Indiana Troopers Youth Services, Inc. (ITYS) with the sole purpose of continuing the ISP Youth Camp Program. The ISP continues to provide support of the camp program in many ways and allows the ITYS’s Board of Directors to oversee the mission of the ISP Youth Camps. The Board of Directors is a group formed of current and retired ISP troopers along with civilians who have a strong determination to ensure the camp programs being available for youth to have this great experience.
The camps today are held at college and university campuses across the state. For many Hoosier youth, this may be their first 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. Currently, there are three different camps available depending on the campers age: Career Camps, available to High School students, Law Camps, available to 6th – 8th grade students, and finally a Pioneer Camp program developed for at-risk youth from ages 11-14.
Over the years, service clubs such as Lions, Kiwanis and Optimist, to name a few, have lent their support to the camp program by providing scholarships to youth to attend the camp, providing support for 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