By Jasmine Franklin
With their heads held high, youths in Hobbema celebrated a turn-around in their community that began four years ago — the making of the Hobbema Cadet Corps.
It was RCMP Sgt. Mark Linnell and Const. Richard Huculiak who joined the four nations of Hobbema, Ermineskin, Samson, Montana, and Louis Bull, into one power cadet corps that has is a model to all other cadet corps across Alberta.
“When one fails!” Linnell commanded.
“We all fail!” the cadets answered.
But fail isn’t in this team’s vocabulary.
On Nov. 21, a community with a reputation for drugs and violence held strong to support the 1,055 cadets who are making a difference in the community.
“Hobbema is the first cadet corps created in the province,” Linnell said. “It has joined the four bands together, made lifetime friendships, boosted kids’ grades and turned them into citizens. Instead of being kids wandering the streets, they are citizens.”
Linnell , provincial Youth Cadet Program manager, travels around the province setting up corps in other communities. Currently, he is trying to start four in Fort McMurray.
The program began in 2005 under the direction Wetaskiwin RCMP Insp. Doug Reti. The community began a crime reduction initiative to cut down drug abuse, violence and gang activity.
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With the efforts of Linnell and Huculiak, the cadet corps has improved not only the community – but the kids.
“We really run this like a family,” Huculiak said. “We’ve actually had gang members turn in their colors and join us.”
The cadet program caters to youths aged eight to 17 years and has only one rule: the youths have to stay in school to be involved with the program. The cadet activities focus on concerns for the native youth and incorporate native culture, education and language.
One cadet, Trent Young, 19, of Ermineskin, has been with the group since the beginning and is now a major. What started as a commitment because of the influence of friends, has turned into a powerful part of his life.
“Being able to be the role model for youth is the best part for me,” Young said. “To have someone look at me and say ‘that’s who I want to be’ is my highlight.”
Recently, the cadets were involved in an exchange with Jamaica that turned out to be a trip that really opened everyone’s eyes, Young said.
Darcy Davidson, superintendant of the RCMP K division, commended the group on all of its achievements.
“You have set the bar very high for other cadet corps in this province,” Davidson said. “You set wonderful standards for cadets across not only Alberta but Canada.”