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Warrior Wednesday: Mecosta County Youth Academy Takes Students Inside the Day-To-Day of First Responders

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“Very helpful, calm, strong, mentally prepared, physically prepared. They’re just always there for you no matter what the situation is.”

A job meant for the strong– the brave– and quick thinking.

“We’re there on their worst day. We have a chance to make it somewhat better, and I think that’s really the most rewarding part about it,” says EMT and Big Rapids Fire Department Firefighter, Bethany Hamilton.

“These guys are risking their lives,” says Mya Cooter.

Mecosta and Osceola county students got a glimpse inside the day-to-day responsibilities of first responders– during a special .

“The first day we went out to Cran Hill Ranch and we did the ropes course, and then did some team building. And then the second day we did some firearm safety, crime scene processing, some defensive tactics , they do PT every morning, Intro to Law Enforcement, also expose them to what are called fatal vision goggles and see what it was like to be impaired and drive,” says Sergeant William Sell.

Mecosta County Sheriff Brian Miller, Big Rapids Department of Public Safety Sergeant William Sell- and Firefighter Bethany Hamilton– were part of this memorable learning experience.

Sheriff Miller says, “This is a perfect age for them to get to see what it is they want to do as they get older.

“It just exposes them to our career and the fun that we have, and how hard it is, but also how rewarding it is. It’s really cool to see how they start out, and what they think it is going into it, and then after they experience and see what it’s actually like. It’s really neat to see the change in their attitudes, and just more of the respect that they have for what goes on,” shares Hamilton.

Held at the Big Rapids Fire Department– we sat in during the fire department’s physical training day and car extrication.

Sell states, “We’re doing what firefighters have to do as far as their physical agility course, and they’re going to learn a little about CPR and AED as well.”

Hamilton shares, “I love pushing people and seeing them get better, and make that difference. A lot of these kids started this week, and they were like I don’t think we can do this or not, but as the week has progressed it’s really cool to see them get better and realize they can’t do some of the stuff.”

Students were able to make friendships and discover potential new career paths. 

“I was never really one to be a police officer, but it kind of opens that idea of, hey if I want to be a police officer or a dnr, it’s kind of a 50/50 thing because I like both,” says student participant, Chase Baumgardener.

Another Youth Academy participant, Mya Cooter, says, “I really wanted to be part of this camp because I’m looking into police work as a career. I want to work my way up to a detective. I really want to help people and bring justice to the world.”

Holding a new appreciation for the first responders who risk their lives — and the difference they make — big or small.

“It’s really important if you ever find yourself in a situation where your life’s in danger, either for a fire or someone pulls a knife or gun at you. It’s important to learn how to defend yourself and you’re physically and mentally prepared for that situation,” says Baumgardener.

“It’s not very often in law enforcement, where at the end of the day you can go home and feel like you made a positive impact in somebody’s life,” says Sheriff Miller.

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