Hampden County Sheriff hosts Youth Leadership Academy

Hampden County

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi participated in a staple of his summer camp: pride in one’s culture.

The sheriff’s four-week Youth Leadership Academy summer camp serves nearly 50 children at the Elias Brookings Elementary School.

These are children from disadvantaged backgrounds, some with a parent behind bars. Building their self-esteem is a priority.

“I’m so proud of what we’re doing in the camp this year,” Sheriff Cocchi told 22News. “The culmination of the four weeks is going to Six Flags, and that’s like Disney World for most of these kids.”

Speaking with the boys and girls who’ve encountered a variety of challenges in their young lives, you get the impression this summer camp experience is doing them a world of good as they face the future.

“The people are a lot better than the people we already know,” 11-year-old Nashion Williams said. “It’s going to to make me a better person.”

“We’re providing leadership,” Camp Director Sal Demaio explained. “And actual examples of how we interact. Our staff is really diversified from all backgrounds and all ages. We provide guidance for the kids.”

Along with role models providing a positive sense of purpose, these children thrive in the shared activities at the first summer camp of its kind in western Massachusetts.

As Sheriff Cocchi put it: the camp provides the resources to help these children take the right path to the future.

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