GRAND FORKS — How to become leaders and realizing the impact of their decisions are some of the lessons middle school students learn during the IMPACT Academy, a program held each summer by the Grand Forks Police Department.
IMPACT, which stands for integrity, maturity, partnership, accountability, community and tenacity, was started at the GFPD back in 2019 when Cpl. Jay Farmer, former Police Officer Jessica Thorlacius and Lt. Jeremy Moe saw a need for a summer program in the Grand Forks community. The academy is free of charge and is offered to kids entering grades seven and eight. This summer the academy started June 7 and will end July 28.
Farmer said one of the goals of the academy is to allow student resource officers to continue building relationships with students when school is no longer in session.
“An SRO’s goal during the school year is to build relationships with students,” Farmer said. “We needed to continue that in the summer, thus the IMPACT Academy was created.”
Along with building relationships with students over the summer, the academy is also meant to build trust; teach kids to be role models; get kids involved with community organizations and volunteer work; and help kids realize the impact of their choices and decisions.
“Our goal is to help create leaders and role models in our community. We want our kids to build skills that help them to mature into successful adults,” Farmer said. “We plan to do this by helping our students to be active, contributing members of our community. By seeing the impact that they can make, in a positive way, it will help them be more responsible with their decisions.”
The activities planned during the summer makes these goals possible by keeping the kids engaged and busy throughout the community. During the first week of the academy kids are taught how to use the Cities Area Transit system as it is one of the main modes of transportation to get to and from the Blue Line Club Area, which is the meeting point every morning.
Along with taking the bus, kids primarily ride their bikes around town with the officers to get to most of the places they go. Bikes can be borrowed if needed, free helmets are provided by Safe Kids and initial safety lessons with all kids in the program are conducted.
Some of the tours of businesses around town include the Grand Forks Police Department, Choice Health and Fitness, Rydell Cars, the Northlands Rescue Mission, Grand Forks Fire Station 5, the Ralph Engelstad Arena, Cirrus Aircraft, PS Industries and more. The Grand Forks Park District also provides the kids with pool passes for the summer for all the Grand Forks pools.
Community service work includes serving lunches provided by St. Joseph’s every day at one of the parks in town, planting a garden at the beginning of the summer that the kids are responsible for tending to it even after the academy ends, hosting a car wash to help fundraise and planning a full day for "random acts of kindness."
The academy ends with a trip to Park Rapids, Minnesota, for the Character Challenge Course where Farmer said the kids learn about teamwork and continue to build their self confidence.
Last year the IMPACT Academy was the recipient of the 2021 Rydell Car and Bike Show funds receiving $70,968. Farmer said the funds are going toward a purchase of a bus, which is being wrapped and once done will be easily identifiable as GFPD’s IMPACT Academy bus. Farmer said having the bus will make getting to places easier.
“This will help us with our biggest hurdle currently, transportation,” he said. “We will be able to go more places and travel further distances.”
This year Farmer and Cpl. Matthew Bullinger are in charge of running the academy, but Farmer said different SROs will take on the responsibility of the IMPACT Academy in upcoming years as they finish their five-year assignments in the schools.
Anyone interested in having their child participate in the academy can find more information on the GFPD’s IMPACT Academy website https://www.grandforksgov.com/government/city-departments/police-department/community-outreach/impact-academy