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Gainesville Jaycees

Another year, another successful Gut Check program

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GAINESVILLE -- It was almost unanimous; when asked about the toughest part of the Gainesville Jaycees Gut Check program at Sunday’s graduation ceremony just about everyone responded: the push-ups.

Making it through the Gut Check program is not easy, but every graduate present at Gainesville Middle School wore a smile that beamed a confidence earned from four days of hard work and dedication.

“It was great because it taught me teamwork; it taught me how to trust other people,” said Chandler Hughes, 13, a student at East Hall Middle School. “It really taught me a lot that I wasn’t even expecting.”

That’s exactly what the Jaycees hope for each summer when they transport roughly 60 middle-school-aged boys to the campus of North Georgia College and State University in Dahlonega for a week of leadership training in an environment that challenges each candidate to push himself and his fellow candidates.

“This program will help you to have the kind of balance in your life that is required for a successful life,” Georgia Senator Lee Hawkins noted during the graduation ceremony.

“You learned a lot about yourselves, didn’t you?” Hall County Sheriff Steve Cronic asked the 2010 Gut Check graduates just before they received their diplomas. “Everything in life is a learning experience, and you learned how to make decisions for yourself this weekend. You also found out something about yourselves that you might not have thought you had or others might not thought you possessed. And now you can use that self-confidence earned when you make other decisions in life.”

Developing self-assurance is one of the key goals for Gut Check, which first began in the summer of 1997. And the challenging team-building and individual exercises that each candidate must navigate during the weekend -- including obstacle courses at North Georgia and rappelling down Mount Yonah -- are designed to imbue graduates with the knowledge that they can depend on their own judgment.

“You’re now strong enough to stand on your own,” Cronic told the class of 2010.

That certainly wasn’t the case when the program began on Thursday, however, as candidates like Corey Cantrell wondered if they had what it took to make it through the discipline asked of each candidate.

“I was nervous,” said Cantrell, 13, a Gainesville Middle School student. “But I started having fun, and I really enjoyed it. It really taught me how to be a man.”

Carlos Aguilar, 11, a student at White Sulphur Elementary, also enjoyed his experience.

“I learned how to work with teammates,” Aguilar said.

Gut Check leader Andy Bangs told parents and relatives gathered at the graduation ceremony that the program’s shared experience gives each graduating class a special link.

“They have respect for each other, and they have a bond that will never be broken,” said Bangs.

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