Developing leadership skills for use now and in the future is the goal of the FBI Youth Leadership Program (YLP) that was attended by 59 students from around the United States including the son of a current member of the Muscatine Police Department.
Abram Jirak, the son of Jeff and Alissa Jirak, was one of the 59 students selected to participate in the program that is designed to benefit young people and future leaders. It was his father, a Muscatine police officer, who planted the seed that led to Abrams participation in the program.
“When I was 14 my dad said ‘Hey, there is this cool leadership academy from the FBI, are you interested?’,” Abram said. “I said that it actually sounded pretty cool.”
His father is a 2007 graduate of the FBI National Academy, a professional development course for U.S. and international law enforcement leaders, and that is where he first learned of the Youth Leadership Program.
“I thought it might be of interest to him but the final decision was his,” Jeff Jirak said.
Abram first applied for the program through the Iowa Chapter of the FBI National Academy Associates when he was 14-years-old, completing an essay and going through an interview process.
“I actually tied for first that year but the other person was older (16) so the chapter decided that the older person, based on seniority, would get a chance to go before the other people,” Abram said. “But my name was still in the ring. I applied at 15 but COVID hit so they cancelled the program, and I applied this year and got it.”
The FBI National Academy Associates and its 48 Chapters in cooperation with the FBI National Academy, Society of Former Special Agents, and FBI-LEEDA, hosted the 22nd Youth Leadership Program in June at the FBI Academy in Quantico, VA.
“It was awesome,” Abram said. “It was a once in a lifetime event that I would do a 100 times over again. You get out there and meet people from around the country. Normally they would allow international people but this year they did not because of the restrictions on international travel. There were still 60 people from everywhere and I made friends with people from Alaska, Hawaii, Nebraska, and Maine.”
“The whole point of the academy is to provide special skills in leadership to the leaders of the next generation,” Abram said. “This is a prestigious academy built all around leadership and expanding that knowledge to the youth.”
Over the course of the week, participants focused on core subject matter which included Leadership, Ethics, Values and Choices, Juvenile Crime, Character Matters, Goal Setting, Bullying, Ethical Decision Making, Accountability, Social Media, and Financial Responsibility. These students also traveled to Washington, DC, to visit several museums and memorials, including Arlington National Ceremony.
The eight-day program culminated with graduation ceremonies.
“Where the FBI National Academy Program is the crown jewel of the FBI, the Youth Leadership Program is the crown jewel of the FBI National Academy Associates,” said FBINAA Executive Director Howard M. Cook. “We look forward to seeing where the journey of these impressive young leaders takes them in the future.”
Abram said that he just cannot say enough good things about the program.
“The training and classes were just amazing,” Abrams said. “I learned quite a lot about leadership, and about social skills and interactions with other people.”
Abram is not sure where his future lies but knows that the leadership tools he learned YLP will be a part of future.
“I get asked about my future a lot because I went to an FBI academy,” Abram said. “The program is based more on leadership than work in law enforcement. That is something you can take with you no matter what career you choose and just be a leader in that career and be a leader in your community.”
Abram is not necessarily looking at law enforcement as a future career but if he did it would probably be in federal service (FBI or DEA). He is keeping his options open, however, and is also looking at a trade school or the potential of military service where he could earn something like a trade certificate.
“Then coming back and maybe starting my own company or joining a company while using my leadership skills in that position,” Abram said.
“We are blessed and extremely pleased with what Abram has accomplished with grades, National Honor Society, and U.S. Community Service for silver cord hours, and definitely looking forward to his senior year to see what he can do,” Jeff said.