Investigating his future

Cody Withers has wanted to be involved with law enforcement as far back as he can remember.

His mother, Cathy, recalls a pint-sized Cody watching television and making definite pronouncements about his future.

“He was this big,” she said, holding her hands close together. “Watching the Supreme Court, saying, ‘I want to be one of them.’”

Cody, now 16 and a junior at Chelsea High School, took a step toward that future by attending the FBI National Academy Youth Leadership Program, for teenagers ages 14-16, in Quantico, Va. from June 23-July 1.

During the program, Cody attended training in leadership, communication, ethics and decision-making, constitutional law, accountability, responsibility and police organization.

Cody decided to apply for the program after one of Cathy’s friends told him about it. He had to write an essay on leadership and do a phone interview before he was chosen to be Alabama’s lone representative at the Youth Leadership Program.

He said the program taught him just how much education matters to his future.

“In the FBI, you have to have a bachelor’s degree, and most people have a master’s degree,” he said. “Now I realize education comes first and what I do now will pay off in the future.”

Cody also had the opportunity to tackle the FBI’s famed Yellow Brick Road obstacle course. While the course is nine miles long, the program participants only did 4.9 miles. However, that 4.9 miles was enough.

“What makes it so hard is that it’s uphill in the woods, and you don’t really know where you’re going,” he said. “You can’t see a finish line. There are ropes going uphill you have to climb. You have to have that motivation.”

Cody’s favorite experience from the program was getting to meet other motivated teenagers and listening to their stories.

“That’s how I see learning, as from others,” he said.

Cathy said she was proud of her son because he worked hard to get into the program with no prior connections.

“Some of (the other members’) parents were alums of the program. He got in without that influence,” she said. “He was there because he really wanted to be there.”

Cody agreed, saying his situation was different than most of the other participants.

“Almost every single kid there had a dad or a mom in the FBI,” he said. “I was there because I really wanted to learn about the FBI. It made me feel better about myself.”

When Cody graduates from Chelsea, he plans to go to the University of Alabama and study political science and then go on to law school. After that, he might be a lawyer or he might find his way back to Quantico.

“Now, I know what it takes to be a leader,” he said. “To be in the FBI, you have to pretty much be the best. This program opened the door to my future. It kind of made me want to join the FBI.”