By KELTON BROOKS
Residents of Garden City are more than familiar with the Lee Richardson Zoo and the 2.2 million gallon "Big Pool," but not as well known to some in Garden City would be being home to the world's largest industrial, hands-on technical school and training lab.
Along the winding road of Fulton Street, just before one hits the highway, stands a facility recognized as one of the premier programs of its kind in the United States.
The Garden City Ammonia Program provides training for more than 600 different companies and instructs about 1,800 to 2,000 students a year.
"We're kind of like a two-year technical school, but instead of going to school for two years, they are coming in and taking week-long courses," Jeremy Williams, directing manager of the Garden City Ammonia Program, said.
And by "they," Williams is referring to the students who take observation tests and written exams to check their knowledge on operating the machinery.
The program has close to 40 people in Garden City per week, who take two to three classes a week.
"We train refrigeration technicians and managers on how to use refrigers such as ammonia, refrigeration processors, carbon dioxide and steam boilers," Williams said.
"What they are learning here is how to operate — safely and efficiently — these industrial systems," he said.
Williams added that most of the students already have a "mechanical aptitude" and work for corporations such as Nestle, Sara Lee and Tyson.
"We want to see if they can exceed and go to the next level and progressively build their careers," he said.
GCAP works with students from all of over the world, with 90 percent of its enrollment by people outside the state of Kansas. This week, there are 13 people from different states and five people from different countries, ranging from Alaska to Australia.
"It's a fantastic program here," Alessandro Silva, 41, who arrived at the program Nov. 5 from Brazil, said. "In Brazil, we don't have a program like this which motivated me to come here. Everything is put on the table very clear. I want to learn as much as I can here to provide information for my country and colleagues."
Patrick Fossey, 35, a Venezuelan from Chile, said he was "very satisfied with the program and facility."
"Everything here is conceived to teach," Fossey said. "It is a facility where you will come and learn."