CSI: Utah? FBI academy gives teens a behind-the-scenes look into forensic evidence, civil rights cases and more

(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) FBI evidence technician Brandon Price, center, demonstrates evidence collecting technics to Utah as the FBI field office hosts its first Teen Academy in Salt Lake City Friday October 20, 2017. I

FBI agents talked to 31 high school students about cybercrime, domestic and international terrorism, human trafficking and civil rights at a daylong teen academy on Friday.

The academy also has a local emphasis. For example, one of the agents talked about specific gangs in Utah. Another presented a civil rights case that happened in Utah.

In the afternoon, the students huddled around a mock crime scene.

A taped stick figure with X’s for eyes was surrounded by crime scene tape. Technician Brandon Price pointed to an empty water bottle, a cellphone and a piece of rope and asked what kind of evidence the teen sleuths might find.

DNA and fingerprints on the water bottle, tool marks and skin cells on the rope, the students said.

“It was really fun,” said Leigh Anne Hickman, from Judge Memorial High School. "I've never gotten to do that before. So it was cool to see what actually happens when they're investigating crime scenes.”

Hickman had always wanted to work with the FBI, she said, as a behavioral analyst.

She said the academy, which landed on the first day of a three-day weekend for her fall break, was worth attending on a day off from school.

“It was really inspirational,” Hickman said.

Holly Etheridge, a senior at Park City High School, had gone into the academy interested in investigating human trafficking or violent crimes.

But after the presentations, she is considering changing her focus to the gang or drug division, or to the professional support staff.

It’s the first such academy the Salt Lake City branch has hosted for teenagers.

The FBI wanted to get kids involved in thinking about possible careers and in giving them insight on how the bureau works, according to spokeswoman Sandra Barker.

“So hopefully this will get them excited about it,” she said.

Students between ages 15 and 18 were allowed apply to be part of the academy, and they were chosen based on community involvement, GPA and a personal essay, according to a news release from the FBI.

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