BROOKINGS – Just hours after Aksel Youmans, 5, learned how to call 911 at a Safety Town class on June 7, he called 911 for real to get help for his mom, who was barely conscious.
Aksel was honored by the instructors of Safety Town at the graduation ceremony Friday and received a special coin from Police Chief Dave Erickson for his actions.
Safety Town is a two-week program led by Brookings Police officers, said Josh Schneider, school resource officer.
It’s been conducted in Brookings for 38 years, according to teacher Amanda Gums.
There’s a two-hour class in the morning and a two-hour class in the afternoon.
Kids ages 4-7 learn about strangers, poison, weather safety, gun and fire safety, water safety, crossing roads, animal safety, bicycling, ambulances and EMS, and about calling 911 and when to do it. They get to walk and drive the streets of Safety Town, to practice being good pedestrians and drivers, try on firefighter gear, and hop in an ambulance and police cruiser.
There were about 40 kids and 10 volunteer instructors in the first session, Schneider said. The volunteer instructors are kids in fifth to seventh grades.
The first session celebrated graduation Friday. The second session will start Monday. Then there’s a break and the third session will start after the Fourth of July, he said.
At graduation, Gums quizzed the kids while families packed the gymnasium of Medary Elementary.
What’s the first thing you do when you get into a car, Gums asked.
“Buckle up,” the little ones answered in unison.
What’s the second thing you do, she asked.
Make sure Mom and Dad are buckled up, they answered, drawing some chuckles from the crowd.
With Aksel’s parents and other family in attendance, Police Chief Dave Erickson asked Aksel if he knew what excellence meant, and explained it was like awesome. Then Erickson presented Aksel with a Chief’s Coin for Excellence and shook his hand.
Aksel is “living proof of the success of the program,” Erickson said.
Just a week before, Aksel had learned about how to call 911 and when to call. Before suppertime, he would use that knowledge to help his mom.
Niki Youmans, who has ongoing medical issues which are not fully diagnosed, was having problems. She’s had episodes before and Aksel has seen those, but “this one was different,” she said, adding there were several different things going on with her body at once.
Aksel thought his mom was “in and out of sleeping because he doesn’t know ‘unconscious,’” Niki said.
Aksel called 911 and gave the dispatcher his name and address and other pertinent information. When the paramedics arrived, he unlocked the door for them.
“Didn’t scream, didn’t cry,” Niki said.
Niki has some memories of that day: of the paramedics calling her name in an attempt to get her to respond, and wondering where Aksel was. She found out later a policeman was throwing a ball with Aksel outside.
“The paramedics, I can’t speak better or more highly of them or the police department,” Niki said.
Aksel rode in the ambulance with his mom to the hospital and Niki thinks the ride and being secured in the harness was all less scary for him “because he’d been in one in the morning,” she said.
Not only that, but the EMT was the same one who’d spoken to Aksel’s class that morning, too, Niki said.
“You always hope that they learn something when they go to something like this,” Niki said, adding she thinks it has more impact because it comes from the professionals and not just “mom nagging.”
Niki is doing well, but still on the mend after her ordeal.
“Very blessed,” she said.
Aksel, who did not know about the special presentation beforehand, stood quietly holding hands with Gums while Erickson made his presentation. Afterward, Aksel showed off his new, two-sided coin to those around him.
“He understands what he did was important, but not the severity. I’m still proud of him for doing it and staying so calm,” Niki said.
Contact Jodelle Greiner at [email protected].
Below 1: Aksel Youmans is flanked by his mom, Niki Youmans, and Police Chief Dave Erickson after the Safety Town graduation ceremony Friday at Medary Elementary.
Below 2: Safety Town students gather in the Medary Elementary gymnasium for graduation Friday.