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For as long as she can remember, Jayci Wood has always wanted to be a cop. In high school, she signed up with the Unified Police Department's youth cadet program, where she went on ride-alongs with police officers, helped with crowd control at public events and even took part in a SWAT training exercise.

Now, the Kearns native and five other cadets are getting a head start on their career goals with scholarship checks for thousands each from UPD and the civic group Salt Lake Honorary Colonels.

Wood was given a $2,000 academic scholarship, which Wood said she would use to study criminal justice at Salt Lake Community College. Dressed in police blues with a cadet badge on her arm, Wood beamed as she described why she wanted to get into police work.

"You get to actually help people," she said.

The youth cadet program was started by the Salt Lake Honorary Colonels and UPDin 2011 for young people who are interested in pursuing a law enforcement career. Cadets, who are between 16 and 21 years old, get training in police work from officers and from assigned mentors in the community. After they are trained, the cadets even get chances to help out the UPD during public events such as parades.

This is the first time that cadets in the youth program have been awarded scholarships.

Three of the cadets were awarded $2,000 for tuition, and three others were awarded $5,000 to go toward paying for training with the state's Peace Officer Standards and Training program, a requirement for any police recruit in Utah.

Nineteen-year-old Juan Rodriguez of West Valley City was one of the $2,000 recipients. The SLCC student said he learned a lot as a cadet, including some skills he has already used in his own life. Once on campus, there was a false alarm after someone thought they heard shots being fired. Rodriguez said he talked to a student who was distraught at the news and helped to calm her down.

"I got to learn how a real life officer can live, and how to talk with people," Rodriguez said. He hopes to use his money to complete school and then start police training after that.

This first batch of scholarship recipients has come after about three years of planning, according to Honorary Colonels President Bill Wirthlin. Those who applied had already met the standards for being a cadet. It's been a worth while investment, Wirthlin said.

"We're eager to do it every year," he said.

According to Salt Lake County Sheriff James Winder, who helped oversee the selection process for the scholarships, all six of the cadets who applied for scholarships were chosen to receive them this year. Originally, they only intended on picking five cadets, but choosing proved to be "excruciating," Winder said, because all six of the applicants were deserving.

"These are great people, and they're going to do great things," Winder said.

Twitter: @KimballBennion —

Scholarship Recipients

• McQuade Allen, 18 — $5,000 scholarship

• Jessica Anglesey, 20 — $5,000 scholarship

• Megan Kelsch, 18 — $2,000 scholarship

• Juan Rodriguez, 19 — $2,000 scholarship

• Jayci Wood, 19 — $2,000 scholarship

• Daryllin Zitting, 18 — $5,000 scholarship

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