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April 15, 2002
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Students Learn the Ins and Outs of the FBI as Junior Agents

by Jennifer Whitson, The Associated Press

EVANSVILLE, Ind. - Seth Jackson stood in front of a group of fifth-graders, raised his right hand and led them in an oath.

"I accept the position of Jr. Special Agent of the Indianapolis Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation," they said, preparing for their graduation in a few weeks.

The group gathered after school to learn about the FBI. The meeting, usually with about 10 children, was whittled down to six attendees because of the day's warm weather.

The children, now considered Jr. Special Agents in training, have studied fingerprinting techniques, learned about crime investigation and have talked about making healthy life choices.

The training is part of the 21st Century Community Learning Center Program, a federal grant awarded to 10 Evansville schools that funds programs ranging from homework help to chess clubs to school gardens.

The FBI Jr. Special Agent's program started in Washington in 1990, and is holding its first training ever in Evansville with fifth-graders at Delaware Elementary School. Three previous Indiana training groups have graduated in Indianapolis.

Sarah Werner, the school's coordinator for 21st Century programs, said students are excited about the program.

"The boys are more interested than the girls at this age," said Werner, a student at the University of Southern Indiana.

At graduation, each student will take his Jr. Special Agent oath and receive a badge. In coming weeks, the students will have to pass a physical fitness test, write an essay about the FBI and pass quizzes.

"These are the same kinds of tests FBI agents have to go through at Quantico," said FBI Special Agent Jim Beck, referring to the FBI's training academy in Virginia.

Beck, part of the FBI's Evansville office, ran the group through how to lift a fingerprint from a piece of paper and then reviewed how the government stores prints and how they can be used, including screening potential government employees.

But unlike their counterparts in Virginia, these trainees had some basic questions.

"Has it ever happened that a bad guy had amnesia and he couldn't remember what he did, but they had his fingerprints so he couldn't get a job with the government?" asked 11-year-old Chase Waters.

Beck assured him that if caught, the government would try to help such a bad guy get medical attention so he could remember his actions.

He then warned the trainees that they will have a quiz on a list of law enforcement terms he passed out, such as fugitive, counterintelligence and white-collar crime.

Jordan Meza, 10, read through the definition for white-collar crime from the Jr. Special Agent's manual, hesitating over even bigger, more confusing terms such as embezzlement and corruption.

Then Beck drilled the trainees about current FBI leaders.

"Who is the current director of the FBI?" Beck asked.

One student ventured a guess: "You?"

The real FBI director is Robert S. Mueller III.

But despite the hurdles, the trainees are learning. And Beck said he hopes the program will instill a sense of pride in the trainees and help them set goals.

"Show respect for yourself by keeping your appearance neat and tidy," Beck read from the Jr. Special Agent's manual. Beck, dressed in a pinstriped suit jacket and a maroon tie, looked the part.

Working with the children is a welcome break from his normal routine, Beck said.

"Remember, wherever you are, you not only represent Delaware Elementary School, but also the FBI," Beck said. "I'm proud of you guys."






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