SWAT, bomb techs & helicopters: FBI Richmond’s community outreach program brings teens behind the scenes

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HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — The loud whirring of a helicopter’s blades brought everyone outside to see what was going on — and when it lowered to the ground, the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team jumped out.

This display wasn’t for no reason, it was to give the chance for a group of teenagers to witness something that could change the way they view their future.

About 25 teenagers had the chance to participate in FBI Richmond’s Community Outreach program to learn about what goes on behind the scenes at the bureau.

The program lasted two days with the helicopter’s appearance as the ‘icing on the cake.’

In the 2021 Teen Academy program, the students were able to view presentations on violent crimes, hate crimes and civil rights — in addition to doing demonstrations with Bomb Techs, SWAT units, and simulators with Henrico Police.

Photo by Tyler Thrasher

Standley Meador, the Special Agent in Charge of Richmond Field Office of the FBI, said this is “an opportunity to bring them inside our walls and show them what we do.”

“We’re looking to give students an education on things to think about for their career,” Meador said. “Opportunities to learn about what we do, investigations we work, giving them hands-on to our specialty programs like our computer analysis response team.”

He said the teens are able to learn as much as they can teach them about the FBI… with some reservations.

“Are there things that we can’t talk about? Absolutely,” Meador said. “That’s the nature of some of our work. But there are things when it comes to connecting to the community, there are things that we can teach them. There are things that they can see and can learn about.”

The teens had the chance to speak to the pilots at the demonstration on Tuesday. Vivian Stewart, Bailey Spencer and Caroline Zorn all jumped at the chance.

“I think this has definitely helped me decide that the FBI is where I want to be,” Stewart said.

“Take every opportunity. It is a great experience and is 100% worth it,” added Spencer.

Meador said the mission to protect the people is not just about working cases, but it is also in moments like these to connect with the community and make an impact.

“Our success, even as young people, is dependent on your initiative to take advantage of an opportunity,” Meador said.

The program will be accepting applications for rising high school juniors and seniors. When those are available, they will be posted on this article.

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