This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Meet part of the Oklahoma City Police Department Youth Leadership Academy’s latest graduating class.

“We started doing mock interviews, but it was mostly us trying to interact with one another and finding out what our purpose was with who are we becoming and who do we want to help,” Carla Cedillos, a Capitol Hill High School student, said.

More than a dozen OKC schools were represented for the eight-month-long academy created by the Oklahoma City Police Department’s FACT program.

“This is just our way of bridging the gap and building relationships with young people from all over the city from several different schools,” Oklahoma City Police Department Lt. Wayland Cubit said.

“I was actually afraid, coming into it, because you get a really bad feeling when you hear the police, but then I learned they’re really great to have a relationship with,” said Zion Dangerfield at Classen SAS at Northeast.

The goal is to raise money for a cause. This year’s focus was the Foster Care and Adoptive Associations of Oklahoma.

But it hit a snag.

“The coronavirus actually threatened to separate us and pull us apart, but we had the opportunity to see those obstacles as opportunities,” Program Coordinator Derrick Sier said.

Meeting at companies’ offices to ask for money turned into video conferences.

“It really did bring us closer. We do Zoom calls. We do FaceTimes and even through this pandemic, it didn’t stop us once,” Cedillos said.

“They had a goal. They had a direction. They had a strategy and then COVID hit, and it changed everything for them and they responded,” Cubit said.

They raised around $8,000, which is about half of their goal, and gained a lot of connections from all over the metro.
“How important it is to have not just your blood family, but other family. These are like my second family and that’s the most important thing I’ve learned here,” Cedillos said.

“I know that there are police out there that I can trust, that I can call, so it’s good to have that feeling of safety and comfort,” Dangerfield said.

For more information, visit this website. and donate to the Foster Care and Adoptive Associations of Oklahoma at this website.

United Voice mission statement: A coalition of Oklahoma’s media outlets, brought together in a united voice to promote a healthy dialogue on race.