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story.lead_photo.caption NWA DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE/TRACY M. NEAL Participants in the Benton County Sheriff's Office's PAL program's junior police academy play dodge ball Friday with deputies and volunteers. The children spent the five days of the academy learning about law enforcement and their job.

BENTONVILLE -- Ten-year-old Marielle Short enjoyed learning how to protect herself at the Benton County Sheriff's Office's Police Athletic League junior police academy.

Short was one of the 47 participants that spent time with sheriff's deputies and volunteers at the free five-day academy that ended Friday.

Marielle said her favorite time of the week was when deputies showed them how to protect themselves from being abducted. Marielle and the other participants demonstrated Friday morning what they learned in the classroom.

The children had to fight off -- punch, kick or yell -- as they encountered a possible abductor.

"It was really fun," Marielle said. "I slid on the basketball court and got court burn on my leg."

Pyper Veith, 8, said she especially loved playing dodge ball each day with the deputies and volunteers. Pyper said she learned about the dangers of drinking and driving.

Ella Kay, a 13-year-old volunteer, said she liked helping "the kids" and the community.

Her grandfather, Mark Pitts, recently retired as a deputy from the Sheriff's Office and also volunteered his time at the academy. Pitts said this was the first year he spent all five days helping with the academy and he enjoyed spending time with the children.

Sammy Vitare, 13, said he enjoyed seeing and learning what happens in the daily lives of police officers. His favorite part of the week was being able to see the Sheriff's Office's SWAT team.

"I just loved the volunteers and the deputies are awesome and very fun," Pyper said.

Nathan Atchison, the vice president of the PAL Board, said most of the 47 children who participated in the academy were recommended by a school counselor.

The PAL program began holding the academies in 2011.

Children spend the week getting a first-hand look at each division at the Sheriff's Office and hear deputies talk about their jobs, Atchison said.

Atchison said it's enjoyable seeing some of the children come out of their shell. They start the week off being timid, but each day their self-confidence grows and they are smiling and interacting with deputies and other children.

Chris Sparks, the president of PAL, said the academy gives children a chance to get to know deputies on a personal level rather than just a person in a uniform.

Neither Sparks nor Atchison works at the Sheriff's Office. Sparks works for Walmart and Atchison is the bailiff for Judge Robin Green.

Both Sparks and Atchison volunteer to help children.

NW News on 06/25/2018

Print Headline: Junior police academy fun experience for children

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