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All Stars preps kids for bright futures
Commissioners hear from grads, honor their efforts
all stars at county commission
The Barton County Commission Wednesday morning recognizes the 20th Judicial District Juvenile Services sixth grade All Star Program graduates from Riley Elementary School in Great Bend. Pictured in back from left to right are: Michelle Daniel, Riley Elementary All Stars facilitator; Blakelee Cooper, case manager; Marissa Woodmansee, Juvenile Services director; Commissioners Shawn Hutchinson, Barb Esfeld,, Jennifer Schartz, Jon Prescott and Kirby Krier; and in front are Riley students Gracely Dale and Xali Arias. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

Barton County Commission meeting at a glance

Here is a quick look at what the Barton County Commission did Wednesday morning:

• Recognized the 20th Judicial District Juvenile Services sixth grade All Star Program graduates from Riley Elementary School in Great Bend.

• Approved the 2022 diesel fuel quote for the Barton County Landfill. Great Bend CO-OP provided the only bid at $3.79 per gallon.

Interim Solid Waste Director Jennifer Hamby said they accepted quotes to purchase 25,000 gallons. The per-gallon quote extends through June 1, 2023, or if the 25,000 gallon mark is exceeded.

• Heard an update on the 2022 tax sale from County Counselor Patrick Hoffman.

It’s a matter of reputation and communication.

That was the message left with the County Commission Wednesday morning as it recognized the 20th Judicial District Juvenile Services sixth grade All Star Program graduates from Riley Elementary School in Great Bend. The program is designed to change lives by helping young people build bright futures. 

“It is about prevention,” said Blakelee Cooper, Juvenile Services case manager who works with the program at Holy Family School in Great Bend. “It’s probably the favorite part of my job now.”

All Stars is implemented in sixth grades at: USD 428’s Jefferson, Lincoln, Park and Riley elementary schools; USD 112 Central Plains; and Central Kansas Christian Academy and Holy Family School, both in Great Bend.

They talk about reputations with the kids and encourage the students to visit with their parents at home, she said. The children return with heart-wrenching and heart-warming stories.

But, they are always insightful, Cooper said.

“I love All Stars,” said Michelle Daniel, a social worker and program facilitator at Great Bend’s Riley Elementary. Students go through the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program in fifth grade, “and sixth grade is the perfect time to expand on that.”

“We ask them ‘what kind of futures they want for yourself,’” Daniel said. “A lot of them haven’t thought about that yet.”

Then, they discuss building character and how to reach their goals. Next, they go into how to maintain that drive as they enter the scary world of the middle and high schools.

“We talk about the futures we want and the futures we don’t want,” said Riley sixth grader Gracely Dale. “We have to follow that path and not quit doing the right thing.”

“We learn that the choices you make may affect you,” said Xali Arias, also a Riley sixth grade student.

“We want to train-up these young leaders as they go into middle school,” said Juvenile Services Director Marissa Woodmansee. “We want them to stay committed to their futures.”

A problem in sixth grade, the facilitators said bullying becomes more of an issue as the students leave elementary schools. That’s when cell phone and social media use increases, and parental monitoring of the kids decreases.

But, even in grade school, the children relate stories of being bullied, insecure and wanting to fit in, all while trying to stick to what they’ve learned.

In addition to the recognition at the commission meeting, each school with the All Star program holds its own end-of-year celebration.

The program was piloted at Riley seven years ago, and after two years it started to grow, Woodmansee said. They hope to expand the effort into other schools.


According to the Juvenile Justice website, the prevalence of substance use increases as adolescents grow older. The goal of All Stars is to prevent use of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, prescription drugs and inhalant use for as long as possible during the most at-risk years for adolescents.  

As an added benefit, All Stars also prevents other behaviors, including early sexual activity, bullying and fighting. Whatever risky behavior exists, it is All Stars’ goal to reduce it, postpone it and prevent it.

The second goal of All Stars is to give kids hope and envision a bright and positive future for themselves.  

With over 30 years of research conducted in the field of substance use prevention, much is known today about what works and what doesn’t work.