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Youth Academy reunion held Friday
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Kaylee Dykes prepares to swing her golf club at the miniature golf park in Great Bend. She has enjoyed the youth academy events because she gets to meet new people. - photo by KAREN LA PIERRE

Youth Academy alumni enjoyed a morning of play on Friday morning, racing go-carts, bowling, playing video games and miniature golf.
“These are the cream of the crop of students,” said Jefferson Davis, Great Bend Police Department school liaison officer. “It’s our way of saying thankyou and our chance to spend more time with these kids. It gives them something fun and safe to do.”
Over the past 13 years, 1180 students have participated in Youth Academy. It is held twice each summer for 7th and 8th grade students who spend a full day visiting the behind-the-scenes city departments.
They see the waste water treatment plant, drive a front loader at the street department, participate in SWAT team practices, and use a fire hose at the Fire Department. They also have meetings with city officials.
The reunion is an annual event for Youth Academy alumni for those in grades 7th-12th.
New initiatives in the city for youth activities were kindled in the Youth Academy. Ideas for the water park, skate park, ice skating rink and BMX park began in the meetings between Youth Academy participants and city leaders, according to Davis.
“A lot of initial ideas came from these kids,” said Davis. He added that one thing the kids would like to see is a roller skating rink.
The kids were having fun as well and the lines were long for the go-carts, particularly.
“I think its pretty fun. It’s free,” said Branden Paden, sophomore at Great Bend High School. “The best part is the go-carts.”
Paden has come back every year since he participated in youth academy three years ago.
The Great Bend Parks Department set up the go-cart event in the parking lot of the bowling alley. Because of the rain, they had to run a sweeper across the parking lot. The go-carts are used primarily for the Youth Academy.
“It’s a true success story with the relationship between the youth and city leaders,” said Davis.