ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s a chance for the Albuquerque Police Department to give middle school students a look into what they do, but this year it was a unique opportunity to give one student a different experience.
Every year APD holds a one week long Junior Police Academy for 60 students in the community. Students watch presentations and demonstrations from different departments within APD. They also have classroom time and physical training sessions with officers.
A spokesperson said this is the first year a blind person has gone through the program.
“I know I can’t use my eyes but I use a cane,” Shawn McHugh, 13, said.
McHugh’s mom said part of the reason she wanted Shawn to participate in the junior academy is because Shawn’s father is in prison.
“I wanted him to see a different perspective of police officers than what he might know,” Rachel McHugh said.
For Shawn, he wanted to break a barrier with his peers.
“I want them to see what blind people are like,” Shawn said. “What they do and how to assist them, and how we are not different from them.”
So that he would have a buddy, APD asked Ofc. Rob DeBuck to spend the week with him — an experience DeBuck said will stay with him forever.
“There was that connection there,” DeBuck said. “How many people at 58 get the opportunity to keep growing like this, and meeting him was the perfect opportunity for me to grow.”
DeBuck said Shawn participated in almost every exercise; only skipping out on a few.
“He didn’t want to be treated any different from any of the other kids,” he said.
“Shout out to Officer Debuck,” Shawn said. “He helped me run the mile, helped me with exercises, he was great.”
It’s a program created for middle school students to learn about law enforcement, but Debuck said these students left with so much more.
“It was an experience for everyone to be in his world and know what it is like,” he said. “You think of kids being very egocentric but yet they were willing and able to open their hearts to this boy who by no means is somebody who needed the sympathy.”
By the end of the program DeBuck said Shawn was easily “the class favorite.”
“Honestly, I just try and do what I’m capable of and push myself very hard,” Shawn said. “Now I have a new respect for law enforcement. I know how hard they work and I know the good they do.”