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National Guard offering free programs for schools

January 3, 2011

PAHS senior Victoria Mitchell tries her hand at the rock wall activity provided to phys-ed students in October by the Army National Guard. SSG Michael Barnett, Army National Guard recruiter, said the Guard offers schools a number of free programs and activities, such as the climbing wall and a rope course. (File photo by Jennifer Smith/The Punxsutawney Spirit)

PUNXSUTAWNEY — If you are looking to climb higher, you might want to talk with the Army National Guard, which offers a free outreach program in area schools.

SSG Michael Barnett, Army National Guard recruiter, said schools can take advantage of a variety of free activities and programs.

“We offer these at no charge,” he said, adding that recruiters offer free programs on drug prevention, Prom Promise, history of the National Guard, flag ceremonies and other informational classes.

“All of the recruiters are trained to speak on each of these classes and programs,” Barnett said.

The Guard also offers various activities such as the climbing wall at Punxsutawney Area High School in October.

“A new activity we have is a ropes course,” a confidence builder for the students who participate, Barnett said.

“It’s elevated, and they go through various obstacles weaving in and out of the ropes,” he said. “At the end of the course, the students can jump onto a hydraulic hoist that lowers them to the ground.”

Barnett noted that all the activities are safe, and all equipment is maintained by the National Guard.

“All of our guys are certified by the state for carnival operations to run rides,” he said. “If they come in and we’re doing something wrong, they shut us down. We’ve never had anyone get hurt, and when the climbing wall was here, the faculty, staff and students had a lot of fun with it.”

The Guard also provides physical fitness training for kids during the evening hours to conduct the training courses and coordinates volleyball tournaments.

Barnett’s territory encompasses the Indiana area up to Brookville, Clairon-Limestone and Jeff Tech.

“Once we bring these activities into the schools both the teachers and the students ask for us to bring them back,” he said.

Not just anyone may take part in activities such as the climbing wall, unless they are at least 14 years old and have their parents sign a permission slip.

Scheduling for this school year and spring and summer has already begun.

“Any teacher or administrator who would like us to bring one of our activities to their school, all they have to do is get in touch with me, and I’ll put them on the schedule,” Barnett said.

He noted that the Guard doesn’t come to school just to recruit.

“We will perform classroom presentations in civilian clothes,” he said. “It’s our way to give something back to the community for the schools that have done so much for us. We don’t talk about recruiting at all unless a student would like more information.”

For more information regarding the free programs that the Guard offers, call Barnett at 724-357-1950.

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