The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office’s fourth annual Virginia Rules Camp came to a close today at Benjamin Franklin Middle School.

Officers joined parents for a graduation ceremony for the more than 40 middle school students who participated in this year’s weeklong camp held just before the start of the new school year. Students were thanked for their participation in lessons about Virginia’s laws mixed in with a variety of outdoor activities.

The first four days of the camp were held at W.E. Skelton 4-H Educational Conference Center. Students participated in archery, sharpshooting, horseback riding, fishing and canoeing throughout the week. Officers got to know the students while providing important information to help keep them out of trouble.

Officer Stephannie Mills, a school resource officer, is one of the organizers of the camp. She and other officers took time during the week to teach students about bullying, how to be safe on the internet and growing issues like vaping. She said officers have noticed an increase in vaping at the high school and want to work to educate middle school students of the potential dangers.

Mills said it is also important to build a relationship with the students so they will trust officers if they have any interactions in the future. “We want them to know that, just because I stop and talk to you, that doesn’t mean you are under arrest,” she said.

The camp is free and open to all middle school students. Mills said some students are also encouraged to attend when teachers or officers believe it made be beneficial for them.

Franklin County is one of several localities in Virginia to participate in the camp. Funding is provided through a grant from the Virginia attorney general’s office.

Sheriff Bill Overton visited the camp on Wednesday to speak with students. He said the camp is a great help in reaching out to youth in the community and helping them to know that officers are there to help.

“It’s been a positive thing for us,” Overton said.