-For The Herald-
Sumner University is unlike any other university in Washington state. Classes are held for only two days, students get free text books, tuition is free and there are no tests.
More than 25 Sumner residents graduated March 12 from Sumner University and received T-shirts and diplomas. The two-day university was held March 5 and 12 at Sumner City Hall.
Sumner University provides an opportunity for residents to learn more about their city.
“We go into depth in topics like traffic or planning or public works,” said Carmen Palmer, communications director for the city. “These are things they sort of know, but don’t entirely know.”
Over the course of the two-day university, students are able to select from any number of classes that include the history of Sumner and explanations on the ins-and-outs of policing, animal control, community development, public works, communication between the city and the public and the different methods the city uses to increase quality of life for residents.
Randy Strozyk, regional chief executive officer of American Medical Response, helped lead the first lecture on March 5 regarding the history of Sumner. Strozyk recalled his childhood growing up in Sumner and felt, back then, like he owned the world.
“My dad owned Valley Variety, and I could get free candy whenever I wanted,” Strozyk said. “(In the 1960s and 1970s) you could walk Main Street and everything you needed was there.”
Ryan Windish, planning manager for the City of Sumner, partnered with Strozyk on the lecture and told students of how Sumner was originally named Stuck Junction and then later, renamed Franklin. Windish said that once the town had a post office, it needed an official name. Several names were put in a hat and Sumner was the name that was pulled at random, explained Windish.
Brad Moericke, Sumner’s chief of police, injected some fun into a class teaching students about the police department. He opened up by offering everyone donuts.
“Help yourself to some donuts and immerse yourself in police culture,” Moericke said.
Moericke said the Sumner Police Department made 615 arrests in 2012.
On March 12, the class came back together to learn more about the functions of city government, how communication has changed and affected the city and what the city does to increase quality of life.
During the last session, students of Sumner University were able to teach city staff and the city council on what makes Sumner great and what can be improved upon. Students broke into four groups for discussion.
Sumner University students said they enjoyed the city-hosted special events, pedestrian-friendly downtown and the accessibility of city officials.
All four groups said traffic concerns need to be addressed. One group said there should be more lighting around the schools. Other groups wanted more available parking in town.
Sally Abrams, administrative specialist for the city, is credited for managing the logistics of Sumner University.
“Sally is the heart and soul of Sumner University,” said Paul Rogerson, community development director for the city.
Abrams said she is proud of the impact Sumner University has had on the community.
“It’s fun to do and people get a lot out of Sumner University,” she said.
The next Sumner University will be held in 2015. For more information on the program, contact Carmen Palmer at 253-299-5503.