By BECKY MALEWITZ
Thanks to a lot of donated supplies and volunteers, Garden City High School's JROTC cadets have something new to look forward to this school year.
A 2,800-foot-long 12 challenge confidence course now sits on the north end of the high school property. The course is a series of physical and logical tasks. The tasks must be completed in a specific order and time limit, utilizing proper technique. The course is designed to test not only strength, but also endurance and performance under stress.
The confidence course consists of 12 stations that require participants to jump over, crawl under, climb up and slide down a variety of obstacles. In some cases, the participant will need a partner to complete a task. The course includes a 40-foot-tall structure called "the skyscraper" and culminates with a zip line.
"We did it at camp one year, and it was just a blast. I really want to do it again every week," said Allyson Simon, a junior in the JROTC program.
Simon was among a group of volunteers, including fellow JROTC cadets, Marine recruits, and individuals from Home Depot, Underground Specialist and the city of Garden City Electrical Department, helping to build the course Saturday.
The project was first conceived by Lt. Col. Randy Phillips, who is in charge of the GCHS JROTC program.
"It's something for the kids to get excited about doing," he said. "High school, sometimes it's not quite so much fun doing some of the stuff, but this is going to give the kids something that they look forward to doing. This is a good test of their physical ability, their leadership ability, their cooperation with each other and teamwork. All of that is incorporated in this."
Phillips believes the course is only the second JROTC course of its kind in the state. He also says the high school course is different from the one at Garden City Community College.
"Ours is bigger than the one at the college," he said. "I've actually met with them, and they know what we are doing out here, so we might be trading off because they got some different things than what we have."
Phillips developed the idea for the course last year and was surprised at how quickly people jumped in to help with the effort.
"I've only been here a year, and I am truly amazed at the generosity of this community. All this that you see going on is donated. Every bit of it," he said, pointing out the obstacles around the course and the volunteers setting them up. "The city of Garden City Electrical Department, they've been wonderful helping us out. All the poles (are) from Wheatland Electric and from the city of Garden City. The lumber you see — all from Home Depot. Some of the stuff we got from Fastenal. Pro Build has donated wood. Menards is looking to donate stuff. I mean, it's just unbelievable."
Among the volunteers who donated their time was Kent Pottorf, electrical engineering/SCADA for the city's electrical department.
Pottorf estimates that in the past month, he and other employees of the electrical department have donated approximately 100 man hours helping to build the course.
"We've been working off and on in our spare time putting the poles in the ground as much as we could and trying to assist in building this course," he said. "They had the foresight and drawings for exactly what they wanted. We are just trying to get them to that point."
Pottorf thinks the course will be a benefit to the JROTC program and the community.
"I think it's a very good plus for the community because it gives the young people who are wanting to be involved in this some structure and also allows them to build that teamwork that we are all trying to achieve. I wish them all the luck in the world and hope everything works out for them," he said.
Ezequiel Olave, who is in his second year of JROTC, isn't surprised at the community involvement in helping to build the course.
"I think in Garden City we show a lot of character in our athletics and everything, and they thought maybe if we gave this to the JROTC, they will show us something good," he said.
The JROTC program has only been at GCHS for three years. Last year, the program had 235 cadets and three instructors. Phillips foresees that number increasing to the point where they would possibly need a fourth instructor next year.
"My goal is not to put them in the military. My goal is to make better citizens," Phillips said, adding that he encourages all of his recruits to go to college after graduation.
He adds that the success of the JROTC program is because of it's participants and the support that they get from the school district.
"The school district here is 100 percent behind us. They support us in everything we do. This is school property. They have just been wonderful," he said. "I've talked to the coaches. I've talked to the PE department at the school — if they want to bring their kids out and use it. I'm trying to make this something that the entire school can use. Even though we are the ones starting this and getting this all done, it's for the school. It's for the community."