Burpies, sit-ups, push-ups, sprints – it’s not how most high school students would choose to spend their Friday afternoons, particularly knowing the workout is going to come with a lot of yelling.
But that’s been the scene in one of Semiahmoo Secondary’s gyms every Friday afternoon since September, where an average of 40 students turn out week after week for an intense workout under the guidance of South Surrey RCMP Const. Troy Derrick.
At first blush, “intense” is a description that may appear a bit of an understatement for the program, dubbed Code Blue.
“If you can talk, you’re not listening right now,” Derrick barks when student chatter interrupts a set of instructions that he has no intention of repeating.
“Get back up. Let’s go.”
Assisted by South Surrey special Const. Susan Caley, White Rock auxiliary Const. Allison Voth and Squamish RCMP Const. Amandeep Mandair, Derrick puts the students through the paces over and over before leading them outside for more.
While building strength and endurance through police-style physical training is an important part of Code Blue, in reality, the program is that and so much more.
Observers who stick around for the full hour on a Friday – or on a Wednesday, where it’s in its second year at Earl Marriott Secondary – will quickly notice that Derrick and the other police representatives don’t simply give orders, they also follow them. When the students are doing pushups, so are the officers. When it’s time to run, everyone runs.
And when energy appears to wane, there’s no shortage of encouragement.
“You own this. You got this,” Derrick tells the teens.
It’s a formula of building inner strength, discipline and confidence that Semi youth-care worker Bridget Roope says is paying off in spades for the students.
“It’s been huge,” says Roope, who participates alongside the teens and officers.
“Their self-confidence, just seeing their ability in themselves physically and just seeing them grow as a group and working together as a team on things.”
One exercise last week had the students form groups of five or six and lift a heavy bench over their heads. They had to make like the bench was one of their buddies, and imagine they were carrying them through shoulder-deep water, all the while making sure their buddy doesn’t go under.
“It sucks, it hurts, but here’s the deal – you’re all in it together,” Derrick tells the students, giving a not-so-subtle hint for success.
“That’s the key,” Caley tells directors of the Semiahmoo Volunteer Community Police Society who turned out to watch.
“They’ve got to figure it out themselves. All these exercises we make them do, it’s all about team-building, problem-solving…”
SVCPS chair Darren Alexander said the society has made Code Blue its signature program, and a focus of its next Red Serge fundraising gala, set for Oct. 2 at Washington Avenue Grill. The hope is to expand the program into Elgin Park Secondary.
Society secretary and Semi alumnus Andrea Martisca said it was “pretty amazing when you actually see what they’re doing and the growth in the kids.”
“This is so great because it’s about the kids,” she said.
Asked what he gets out of Code Blue, Grade 12 student Kristian Chalmers listed “a lot” of discipline, leadership and co-operative skills. The regime also complements the training he does with Semi’s track team.
Roope noted that Derrick is as quick to commend the students as he is to ream them out for not trying their best.
And in Code Blue, she said, the playing field is level.
“There is a reward and a good feeling at the end there, of accomplishment,” said Roope. “Const. Derrick is really good at spearheading that we’re all equal.”