LARGO — More than 50 individuals with special needs gathered at the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Administration Building in Largo June 29 for an adapted version of the Citizens Academy.
The Sheriff’s Citizens Academy gives participants an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at the 15th largest sheriff's office in the country. This adapted, one-day version of the program was hosted in collaboration with Help Us Gather, a local nonprofit that advocates for inclusion and connects individuals with disabilities to social events.
Participants were able to see firsthand the kind of equipment that PCSO deputies use and the training they undergo to keep their skills sharp as they serve and protect the community. Attendees were able to try on tactical gear, sit inside patrol and SWAT vehicles, see firearms, participate in self-defense and K-9 unit demonstrations, and more.
“PCSO is a shining example of HUG’s vision for the future where organizations make it a priority to include everyone,” said Robin Lally, founder of HUG.
This was the second year PCSO hosted Help Us Gather’s group. Both parties look forward to continuing the joint initiative in the future.
“For as much joy and opportunity we give to our friends at HUG through this adaptive Sheriff’s Citizens Academy, they give us so much more,” said Joanna Cheshire, PCSO external and legislative affairs manager. “During the day’s activities, participants were engaged and eager to participate. Their curiosity, fun, and beautiful smiles were infectious.”