“If you see local youth being hauled around in police cars or in the back of ambulances it is not because they are in trouble with the law or injured in an accident.” Over the past 21 years, words to that effect have been issued to announce the City of Great Bend’s annual Youth Academy.
The modes of transportation haven’t always been the same – this year they ride in a GBHS Panther Activity Bus – but each year dozens of seventh and eighth graders have visited city departments for a look at the workings of our local government. From the pungent Wastewater Treatment Plant to the Wetlands Waterpark, middle school students are invited to tour facilities and visit with city employees. The day wraps up with an idea exchange with City Administrator Kendal Francis.
Former Mayor Great Bend Allison attended many of these meetings and was known to say, “We want to be known as the city the listens to our kids ... and we want our kids to have so much fun growing up in Great Bend that, someday, when they are ready to settle down and start a family, we hope they will remember how much fun Great Bend was for them and will consider coming back to live.”
Some of the earliest Youth Academy graduates now have children of their own and some have chosen to live in Great Bend.
Past ideas that came out of the exchange have included the creation of, or improvements to, the hike and bike path, skate park, disc golf course at Veterans Park and the Wetlands Waterpark.
If you see local youth out and about this summer, assume the best.