By Jay Meisel
TEQUESTA - For some youth, the idea of getting up at 5:30 a.m. and doing pushups, shooting rifles and climbing ropes may not be the type of summer vacation they pictured.
But attending the law enforcement academy camp in Tequesta was an ideal setting for Tyler Dockswell, 14, a home- schooled student from Port St. Lucie.
"It's a disciplined and structured setting," he said, adding that's what he liked most about the camp.
He believes discipline will come in handy after he finishes school, as he plans to join the U.S. Navy.
Tyler was one of about 73 youth who are members of Explorer troops, who attended the camp. The roster of participants included a few from St. Lucie, Indian River and Martin counties.
Sal Anicita, who advises the Explorer troop for the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office, said he believes youth, ages 14 to 21, crave discipline and structure. And that's what they get at camp, he said.
The youth experience many of the activities as the law enforcement academy for adults. That includes a rope course, rock climbing and firearms instruction, he said.
"It's the same basic type of stuff," Deputy Anicita added.
It provides good training for those interested in going into law enforcement or the military, he said.
"The biggest thing they learn here is respect," he said.
Jason Howard, a detective with the Martin County Sheriff's Office, said he believes one of the best skills they gain by participating is teamwork.
In at least one way, the environment is a far cry from that experienced by most teenagers.
They don't have computers, ipods or cell phones, Deputy Anicita said.
Nor can they call their parents or friends, he said.
"The parents trust me that I'm not going to let anything happen to the kids," he said.
When the students first come to the camp, the staff take them down a notch, making them feel that they can't do anything right, Deputy Anicita said.
"Then we start building them back up," he said. "By the last day, these kids are pumped up."
And by the end of the session, the youth say they've enjoyed the experience, he said.
Landaol Brown, 15, a student from Vero Beach, said he believes the discipline will help him, as he plans to enter the U.S. Marines after school.
He said he liked the gun range, swimming and meals the best at the camp.
The camp is about 70 percent male and 30 percent female.
But Cristaly Mercado, 17, a Port St. Lucie High School student, said she doesn't mind being outnumbered by the boys.
"Most of my family is guys," she said.
She said she liked the discipline and training, the most and sand flies the least.
Cristaly plans to become an FBI agent, she said.
Juster Maglonzo, 14, a Martin County student, said working with his teammates is the best part of the camp.
Although he plans to become a teacher, entering law enforcement is a backup option, he said.
Austin Haberkkorn, a student from Port St. Lucie, who is a member of the Explorers in Martin County, plans to become a law enforcement officer.
"I think it (the camp and its discipline) is going to help us in the long run when we're actual cops and when we're out there and we're doing what cops do," he said.