VASSALBORO – David Adams’ inspiration to join Maine State Police started years ago when he first got to know his Palermo neighbor, a trooper who patrols the midcoast region.

If Adams needed further inspiration, he got it this week when he and 30 other high school juniors and seniors from around the state took part in the Maine State Police Junior Academy.

“Once I got here, they opened everything up to you,” said Adams, who graduated from Erskine Academy in June and will enroll in Thomas College’s criminal justice program next month. “There’s more to it than people think.”

The three-day program started four years ago to get high school juniors and seniors interested in joining the Maine State Police, said Trooper Robert Burke. Retirements are expected to create a number of vacancies over the next few years.

“We’re reaching out to eligible juniors and seniors so we can expose them to the opportunities the Maine State Police offers,” Burke said. “We do everything there is in law enforcement.”

The junior troopers spend three days at the academy getting a taste of what recruits experience, including physical training and academic instruction. Students also learn about different areas of police work, such as tracking and crime investigation, and they tour the Maine State Police crime lab in Augusta.

The junior troopers on Friday took part in demonstrations by special state police units, including the tactical team, underwater recovery, bomb team, K-9 teams and crash reconstruction.

“It’s been a good opportunity for them,” Burke said.

The junior troopers must be in good standing in their high schools and be recommended by their guidance offices, Burke said. Candidates must write an essay on why they want to be a trooper.

“We’re starting to see graduates of our first (junior) academy” applying to be full-fledged troopers, Burke said. “The program will get bigger.”

The program gives the junior troopers a solid understanding of how to prepare for the interview process and academy.

“We need these people to be motivated, hard-working adults who don’t need direct supervision,” Burke said. “That’s what we’re trying to foster in these kids early on.”

Adams said he now feels better prepared than ever to begin training for his career.

“They pretty much give you the answer and what you have to do,” he said. “If you really want it, you can have it.”

Falmouth High graduate Brad MacDonald, a junior trooper who will study criminal justice at Southern Maine Community College, caught the law-enforcement bug from his dad, a long-time Portland officer. He said, “It’s something different every day.”

Emily Boyd of Medway, who will be a senior at Schenck High School in East Millinocket, said she entered the program looking toward a career in law enforcement, but now she is focused on the Maine State Police.

“I didn’t realize the state police had so many opportunities,” she said. “I had a lot of questions answered for me in the last three days.”