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Great Bend Youth Academy brings many smiles
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Children watch as an EMT puts a cast on a volunteer at the Great Bend Fire Department on Friday during the Youth Academy. - photo by Russell Edem/Great Bend Tribune

Great Bend youths got a behind-the-scenes look at how the city works on Friday during the Youth Academy.
Approximately 65 middle school students watched a K-9 demonstration by the Great Bend Police Department and saw how stun guns work. They saw how thermal cameras work and participated in an obstacle course at the Great Bend Fire Department. They got to drive high loaders at the Public Works Department, pet animals at the Great Bend Brit Spaugh Zoo and learn how water is filtered at the Wetlands Waterpark. They also visited the Waste Water Treatment Plant and Park Department before being treated to lunch with Mayor Mike Allison and Great Bend City Council members.
“I had a lot of fun today during Youth Academy,” seventh-grader Payton Miller said. “My favorite part was the zoo. We got to see animals and we also got to pet some of them and learn where they come from.”
The Youth Academy is sponsored annually by the City of Great Bend for students in grades 7 and 8.
“The kids have a lot of fun during the academy,” Fire Chief Mike Napolitano said. “They really get to see how the city works from all the people that are involved in the process and they get to see how the fire department operates.”
The students’ last stop was the City Office for an idea exchange with City Administrator Howard D. Partington.
“Many ideas that the kids bring up are now things the kids enjoy today and these ideas come from the idea exchange,” Fire Inspector Mark Orth said. “The water park, skate park and the disc golf course were ideas of the children that have participated in the Youth Academy in past years.”
According to DARE Officer Paul Millard, the academy allows for hands-on learning for the students. After a second group meets this summer, Great Bend will have conducted a total of 45 different Youth Academy classes over the past 19 years, representing over 1,500 student participants.