Changing a flat tire, checking a car's oil level and handling a routine traffic stop were some of the life skills Calcasieu Parish teens and young adults learned during the first Reality Check class hosted by the Sheriff's Office on Wednesday.

More than 40 area youth took part in the day-long class, which featured a series of workshops aimed at teaching them important life skills and showing them a different side of law enforcement.

"I've learned that they're actually good people and they're just trying to help the community," said Dylan Simmons, an Iowa High School senior. "They want to go home to their families just like we do."

Sheriff Tony Mancuso said young people sometimes aren't taught the necessary skills, like changing a flat tire, before reaching adulthood.

"We just felt like there were things they needed to learn," he said. "If you don't get this type of instruction, you're just kind of left out there to fend for yourself."

Deputy Anthony Boswell said hands-on instructions are more effective than other methods.

"A lot of your kids these days use a lot of YouTube (videos) and Google to try and figure things out," he said. "If you teach them how to do things properly and it saves their life, that's what we're here for."

Participants also wore goggles and drove a golf cart around a track lined with traffic cones to understand the effects of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
"I felt like I was in a daze," Simmons said. "I knew I was hitting the cones, but I couldn't control it."

Cprl. Carl Lanham said a routine traffic stop can be a stressful situation for teens.

"Growing up, I never knew what to do during a traffic stop," he said. "So seeing them coming out here and getting this kind of knowledge will make them feel a little bit more comfortable when it does happen."

Jonathan Vollprecht, a Sam Houston High School student, said the simulation taught him to be calm when approached by law enforcement.

"They explain to you (beforehand) what's going to happen and what they're going to ask you," he said. "It's just easier for both sides if we know what's coming and we're calm."

Students also took classes on personal safety and how to respond during an active shooter situation. The course included a Firearms Training Simulator, or FATS, scenario.

Another class is scheduled for Friday at the Sheriff's Office Training Academy, 3958 Mallard Cove Drive. Mancuso said the department has more classes scheduled.

Calcasieu Parish Government and Cameron Parish Reporter

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