Homeschool and life skills students learn about customs
MADAWASKA, Maine — Nearly 50 students and their parents turned out to the Multipurpose building Oct. 11 when the students from the Madawaska Middle High School Life Skills class and various homeschool students in the community had the opportunity to learn about Customs and Border Protection.
Among other topics students learned what it takes to be an officer, and what to expect when crossing the border.
Jodie Theriault, a Customs and Border Protection officer and outreach coordinator, got word out to families in the area who homeschool their children for them to have the chance to learn about Customs and Border Protection in a fun way. Theriault has a daughter of her own and was able to get the word out to the homeschool families through her soccer team, a Bible club, and the homeschool group facebook page.
“We do a lot of events in the community and public schools, but haven’t had the opportunity to interact with the local homeschoolers,” Theriault said. “We want the CBP mission to reach everyone in our community, and give everyone the chance to see what our job is like, and why we do what we do.”
The Madawaska Middle High School life skills class was also invited to attend the educational engagement and turned the whole encounter into a learning experience. From the moment they walked out of the school until they finished visiting the various demonstration stations, the class practiced street safety and crowd interaction skills.
“It’s really great for the students to see the officers in a happy light,” said life skills teacher Vanessa Gagnon. “They really enjoy any time they get to spend with the officers.”
The students learned about why people with a criminal record, oranges and certain insects cannot come into the United States. The students even got the chance to go around to different stations to inspect a car to find prohibited items, beat up on one of the officers, use handcuffs, learn about the K-9 unit, and look at bugs that are potentially dangerous to U.S. ecosystems.
“Often times when children see officers, the situation isn’t ideal or happy,” she said. “So this paints the officers in a light, so that if the children are in danger, they feel comfortable running to them and going to see them for help.”
Gagnon said it is especially good for her students to have the opportunity to learn border crossing customs in a safe and controlled environment, since crossing at the border can be an “intimidating experience” for some students.
Her husband, Officer Ben Gagnon, played Red Man Friday, a position not for the faint of heart. During the entire event, Gagnon was either getting beaten up by children with batons, or he was getting handcuffed by 5-year-olds. Luckily he was wearing protective gear the whole time.
“It is great for my students to see that the officers are human, that they are kind, nice, funny…” Gagnon said.