In full uniform, badge and all, Covington Police Chief Andrew McCurdy started showing a group of middle school students how to properly lift a kettle ball weight at Cedar Heights Middle School’s gymnasium. What’s the trick? Don’t lift straight up. Slightly stick your butt out first and then lift. It helps your back in the long run.
The program is called Badges and Barbells, and it was started by McCurdy when he worked in Burien. When he became the Police Chief in Covington he decided to bring the school program with him to the Kent School District.
“The camp is just our summer version of our year-long program,” McCurdy said. “We have weight lifting club two days a week afters school. The idea behind it is to get kids, cops and firefighters together in a neutral environment so we can build relationships. My idea is if we wait until a crisis to get to know the public, it’s going to be wrought with problems. It’s about breaking down stereotypes on both sides.”
The summer camp and after-school club is hosted at Cedar Heights Middle School.
“Sometimes these kids can lift more than us, mainly the eighth graders,” McCurdy chuckled. “But I do believe fitness and strength builds confidence, it builds a growth mindset and it shows students how they can overcome obstacles in their life, set goals and things like that.”
The summer program is only held for five days during the summer. For the first hour of the day McCurdy and another Covington officer spend time helping the kids warmup and exercise. Then the kids are given an activity or a guest speaker comes. The last part of the day is spent learning about nutrition and their personal health.
On Monday, Aug. 5, a nutritionist from Multicare came and taught students how to prepare healthy meals. Then McCurdy took the students to the store to buy groceries for the week.
The most exciting part of the camp, and McCurdy’s personal favorite, is the Cops versus Firefighters Challenge on Friday. Students choose a team to represent, police or fire, and dress the part before competing in an Iron Man style challenge. The local SWAT, firefighters, police and others come out to encourage the students and cheer them on.
“They do a cross fit, obstacle style race,” McCurdy said. “It’s always a lot of fun.”
Badges and Barbells has been at Cedar Heights Middle School for three years. There are four schools all together, one in SeaTac, one in White Center and in Burien too. McCurdy is looking to spread the program up north as well.
“We have officers that work in the schools and what they do is run the programs after school,” he said. “A lot of these schools don’t have organized weight lifting programs. Usually they have to cut that due to budget restrictions. And I think there is so much worth in it. In college I originally studied sports medicine.”
McCurdy said his family has always been involved in police work, so he was able to combine both his love of fitness and policing through training camp and more.
“I see the value in healthy mind, healthy body,” McCurdy said.
Each year McCurdy watches how his students grow and become healthier and more confident.
“It’s easy to get stuck in just answering calls, or just the administrative stuff since I’m the chief,” McCurdy said. “But I’ve seen kids from this program who decide to pursue a career in law enforcement, or to try out for higher level sports that they wouldn’t be exposed to if they didn’t come to this camp.”
One kid a couple of years ago did not want to go to camp, McCurdy said. He spent everyday complaining that he wanted to “go home and play video games.” But after a week with McCurdy and his team, the preteen changed his perspective. The next school year he tried out for track, football and soccer.
“I honestly think if his parents didn’t make him come he wouldn’t have tried out,” McCurdy said.
Another student was a boy between sixth and seventh grade who had struggled in school socially and needed a new outlet. McCurdy noticed incremental changes in his student during camp. But three months later the boy lost 40 pounds and decided he wanted to be a police officer, which helped him stop getting in trouble.
“He had built new friendships and relationships through sports, and it helped him stay out of trouble,” McCurdy said. “That’s just one of a bunch of example of that type of thing. Some of the changes we aren’t aware of until after the fact. This gives them a purpose.”
On Friday, Aug. 9, the students split up onto the two teams and competed with the new skills they gained from Badges and Barbells. They dragged weights, climbed walls and ran all while wearing heavy uniforms. This year Team Police were the champions.
The camp and club consists about six to 12 students. The camp is free for students who attend or will attend Cedar Heights Middle School. Students but have an Associated Student Body card to attend. During the school year the club meets from 3:10 – 4:15 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the school gym.