For some teenagers, summer camp means horseback riding, mountain hikes, and telling stories around the campfire. But for a group of teens who recently participated in the FBI's “Future Agents in Training” program, camp was all about getting an inside look at what it’s like to be an FBI special agent.
The program, now in its second year, is a weeklong summer camp based at the FBI's Washington Field Office and is designed to provide a fun, hands-on experience for students 16-18 years of age interested in FBI career opportunities.
In 2007, 30 students from D.C. schools and various Washington-area Middle Eastern organizations participated. This year, the program was expanded, drawing more than 200 applicants nationally, 41 of whom were accepted.
“It has been a phenomenal success,” says Joseph Persichini, Jr., Assistant Director in Charge of the Washington Field Office who was instrumental in creating the program and hopes it will serve as a “pipeline for youth into the FBI.”
Persichini says he was very impressed with the teens who participated, citing their intelligence and high level of motivation at a relatively young age. The course is a “fantastic opportunity” for such focused young people, he adds.
Rocco Settonni is a good example. When the 16-year-old from Cleveland, Ohio read about the summer program on the FBI's website, he informed his mother that he was going to apply and that he had every intention of being accepted.
“He was going to make it happen come heck or high water,” his mom Margie recalls. “Rocco is a determined young man.”
“My personal career goal is to work as a special agent, focusing on intelligence/counterintelligence or counterterrorism,” Rocco wrote in a 500-word essay required as part of the competitive application process. He explained that to reach his goal of one day becoming an agent, he was also “very willing to learn to speak Farsi, Pashtu, or any other language vital to the defense of the United States.”
Elliott Styles, a high school sophomore from Baltimore, Maryland, wrote in his essay: “Basically what I really hope to achieve from this program is to learn the everyday life of an FBI agent.”
Elliott and his classmates were not disappointed. During the weeklong course they collected evidence, helped solve a mock bank robbery, saw how a polygraph test is administered, and spoke with agents in the field—including George Piro, who interviewed former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein after the dictator’s capture in 2003. There was also a private tour of the Capitol, a graduation ceremony at the end of the week, and a meeting with FBI Director Robert Mueller at their training facility in Quantico, Virginia.
By giving young people a realistic look at how the FBI operates, the Future Agents in Training Program is “planting a seed” for the future, Persichini says. And if 30 or 40 students participate every summer and go back to their friends, families, and communities to talk about the positive experience they had, everyone benefits.
“If that one week changes their lives, reinforces their commitment to the FBI or to public service in general,” Persichini says, then the program “is worth its weight in gold.”
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