Jennifer Terman

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May 9, 2013
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Grass Valley Police hosts GREAT academy

For students interested in a fun and informative time at a low cost, the Grass Valley Police Department is hosting its fourth GREAT (Gang Resistance Education And Training) Summer Youth Academy.

The academy is a week-long event that takes students on fun field trips and offers entertaining activities while teaching life skills of effective communication; active listening and empathy; anger management; refusal skills; and positive, good decision-making and goal-setting.

“Kids have a blast. It’s the highlight of their summer,” said Det. Zack LaFerriere.

Students enjoy both the activities and the skills they learn during the academy.

“It was fun. We did sponge tag and at the end we had a scavenger hunt, went to the pool, had lunch together and breakfast,” said Miguel Sosa, 11, who attends Echo Ridge Christian School. “It was very interesting where they taught you how to not listen to people you don’t know and to strangers. It made it easier to say no.”

The camp will select 30 students from each grade and is open to incoming fourth-graders through eighth-graders, who will be divided into four sessions from June to July.

Fourth graders will attend June 17-21, fifth-graders from June 24-28, sixth-graders from July 8-12 and seventh- and eighth-graders from July 15-19.

To apply, a completed application and single-page reference is required, which can be accessed at any Nevada County school, at the Family Resource Center at 235 South Auburn St. in Grass Valley or online at The completed application should be brought or mailed to the school or the resource center.

The academy is sponsored by Grass Valley Police Department and a Safe Schools, Healthy Students grant.

A $25 fee is required, which covers meals, all events and a T-shirt and water bottle. Scholarship opportunities are available.

The first day involves ice-breakers, an empathy lesson and video and a trip to juvenile hall, LaFerriere said.

“The kids get to have lunch and tour juvenile hall and see behind the scenes what it’s about, and then we go to KNCO and do a tour there, and some kids get to do a PSA for their parents and kids.

“We try to do field trips and correspond with lessons,” LaFerriere said. “We practice skits in front of the classroom with real-life situations so they know how to say no in a real-life setting.”

LaFerriere said the students are asked about their career goals and local professionals in those fields are brought in to speak.

“It’s nice because people from our city come and speak to these little minds to say, ‘This is the route I took,’” he said. “Kids have a lot of fun and build self-esteem.”

The academy is linked with the Grass Valley Family Resource Center, which helps organize the applications and acceptance process.

“It’s very exciting. I get to share all the information about it with families,” said Karen Wallack-Eisen, the community-school liaison.

The turnout in the past has exceeded the number of spots available because the kids love it so much, Wallack-Eisen said.

“Last year we had to turn away about 100 kids — that’s how popular is was,” she said.

“It’s incredibly affordable because we don’t want money to be a barrier.”

The program was larger in previous years but had to be reduced because of budget constraints, Wallack-Eisen said.

“Last year we had two sites with over 260 kids by the end of the summer,” she said, considerably more than the 120 spots this year.

“Anyone who has not participated before has priority, and just about every kid wants to do it again, but those who have done it before need to go on a waiting list,” Wallack-Eisen said. “The priority is to spread the wealth and get as many kids exposed to the curriculum as possible.”

The camp also needs high school counselors, who should contact Wallack-Eisen at 530-273-4059 if interested.

For information, visit

“We’re hoping to continue this from year to year,” Wallack-Eisen said. “The more people who know about it, the better,”

To contact Staff Writer Jennifer Terman, email or call 530-477-4230.

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The Union Updated May 10, 2013 12:07AM Published May 12, 2013 11:34AM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.