Entrance to Stumphouse Tunnel
By: Jimmy Watt
Public Information Officer
(Walhalla, SC)——————————–On an overcast but humid Tuesday morning, a group of deputies from the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office as well as administrators from the School District of Oconee County led a group of 29 young students ages 10 – 13 on a hike along part of the Foothills Trail off Highway 107 near Mountain Rest which is part of the Sumter National Forest.
Later on, the students ate lunch at a picnic area at Stumphouse Tunnel in Walhalla and visited the landmark itself.
All of the activities taking place this week are all part of the 1st ever Oconee County Sheriff’s Office “Leadership Camp” for at risk boys. The activities taking place this week are not only for purposes of showing these young students many of the sites in Oconee County, but are also used to help build leadership skills as well.
“I think it is important because we have interacted with these students throughout the school year,” according to Corporal Charles Mulwee, Elementary School Resource Officer for the Sheriff’s Office. “Now we have them outside of school and they see a different side of us. The camp is here to teach them team skills, leadership skills, and we even pick team leaders from some of the older students and they are really stepping up and leading by example.”
According to Corporal Mulwee, the “Leadership Camp” took months of planning and involved the Sheriff’s Office and the School District working closely together to make it happen. The Camp is part of a larger vision from Oconee County Sheriff Mike Crenshaw.
“(The Leadership Camp) is part of the drug mentoring prevention program that the Sheriff started last August,” according to Corporal Charles Mulwee, Elementary School Resource Officer for the Sheriff’s Office. “The Sheriff told me that one of things he wanted to do was have a camp for kids.”
Each morning this week during the “Leadership Camp,” the students and those helping to lead the effort met in the gravel parking lot behind the Law Enforcement Center in Walhalla, eat breakfast and then head off to the activities of the morning. Then after lunch, more activities are planned for the afternoon. Some of the activities held this week included basketball, soccer, a visit to the county Rock Quarry, hiking, fishing, swimming, and zip lining. The most important aspect, according to deputies, is fostering relationships with the students and helping them to make good choices in their lives, as well as formulating discipline and structure in their everyday routine.
The students who participated this week were pre-selected by the School Resource Officers and the teachers and as mentioned, are considered at risk students. Corporal Mulwee feels that an investment in their lives now will pay dividends in the future.
“We figure if we can catch them on this end and keep them on the right path and show them that there is a better way and a better life and stay on the right path and make the right choices they will benefit in the end,” continues Corporal Mulwee. “These kids will remember this camp for the rest of their lives, I can promise you that.”
Besides the Sheriff’s Office and the School District’s participation, many organizations and businesses also got involved in making donations. Among the businesses and organizations were the Army National Guard, who supplied t-shirt’s for the event for the students, plus, Bountyland Quik Stops, Ingle’s, BI-LO, The Bait Shop and Sodexo Food Services.
Along with Corporal Mulwee, other deputies and school district personnel who participated this week in the Leadership Camp this week includes Lieutenant Mark Lyles, School Resource Officers Corporal’s Jay Freeman, Norm Dukes, and John Pearson, Corporals Tony Wheeler and Jason Kilpatrick, Victim Advocates Rhonda Morgan and Vickie Bottoms, Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Jimmy Watt, Superintendent of Education Dr. Michael Thorsland and Assistant Superintendent of Operations Steve Harvey and Director of Student Services, Staff and Security Evie Hughes.
Graduation for those students who participated in the “Leadership Camp” is set for tomorrow afternoon at the Sheriff’s Office.