For the 20th consecutive year, teenage boys are getting the chance to learn some of the life skills that will turn them into men as they work through the various obstacle courses, programs and team building in the Gainesville Jaycees' Gut Check program.
The teens are broken into squads, where they work through roughly three days of "gut checks," whether it be overcoming fear to rappel down a 43-foot wooden tower or learning the consequences of their actions via a tour of the Lumpkin County Jail.
Paul Rogers of Gainesville is a 2000 Gut Check alumnus who now serves as a "Squad Leader."
"I still remember almost everything about it. (There are) definitely a lot of things I want to instill in my squad this year, and it's been a little easier to do that having gone through the program before," said Rogers, who leads the Orange Squad.
The program, Rogers said, instills discipline, confidence and trust in the young men.
The squad leaders wake up at 6 a.m. and prepare to wake up their squads, which is immediately followed by a room and uniform inspection. A quick round of "P.T." (physical training) is then followed by breakfast at 7:50 a.m.
"After that's it's just a fun day at the obstacle course, the rappelling tower, drill instruction and squad time," said Rogers.
"Before you know it, it's 10:00 (p.m.) and it's lights out."
Cory Cummings, a Gainesville Police officer who oversees Gut Check, said the relationships built between the squad leaders and their squad can be invaluable, since the relationships don't stop after graduation.
"They build a 'big brother' kind of relationship in just three days, so then after this camp they can go see the kids and continue that relationship," said Cummings.
So far, Cummings said, none of the Gut Check alumni have ever gotten into serious trouble on his watch.
"I'm sure they're out there, but I haven't found one yet. Knock on wood, but I think we're doing something right," said Cummings.
Gut Check leaders hope the kids can pass on some of what they've learned to their parents.
"Sunday I'll speak in front of all the parents that come to graduation, and remind them that they need to take up the Gut Check philosophy after this camp," said Cummings.
"A lot of them need a gut check."
(NOTE: A photo gallery of some of the activities is at the top of this article. Click the top photo to scroll through it.)