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Dunkirk JROTC cadets work on Camp Gross ‘Senses Walk’ nature trail

Good-natured

Submitted Photo by Frank Torain JROTC cadets from Dunkirk High School gathered at Camp Gross in October to build on the ‘Senses Walk’ trail, a 700-foot path that helps the seeing impaired to go out and enjoy nature.

Dunkirk High School’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corp. (JROTC) cadets ventured out to Camp Gross this fall to once again expand on their “Senses Walk.”

The first walk, which started in 2005, was formed in collaboration with the Lion’s Club, which provided the initial financing. Over the years, the 200-foot trail has expanded to a 700-foot trail with additional money given by the city of Dunkirk and this year, by the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation.

“The walk is a nature trail the cadets developed for the seeing impaired,” Sgt. Frank Torain, assistant instructor of Dunkirk’s JROTC unit stated. “The idea is to give the seeing impaired the opportunity to go out and experience nature. We usually go out to develop it further and do some community service cleanup at the camp as well.”

Back before this initiative was started, the unit used to do an organization day on a Saturday that had a turnout of about 25 people. With careful planning, Torain organized it as a weekday activity, allowing everyone to go.

This year’s turnout was 75 cadets and six chaperones. Their agenda consisted of organization and structure training, which helped outline military formations like squads and platoons, as well as helping cadets in identifying who their leaders and followers are, with activities to help in fostering these interactions.

Challenge activities were also planned, pitting the two companies against each other to help gain ‘Company Points,’ in hopes of becoming Company of the Year.

Torain says that this activity allows him and other unit leaders to gauge how the lessons being taught in class impact how cadets respond in the real world.

“I know that everything that we do here can work and then we can use that as a way of trying to evaluate how well they can they apply all the lessons that we’re teaching in class,” Torain explained. “We adapt to the needs of the students. This year I’m finding that the needs are more social and emotional; helping kids develop their self-esteem, their drive, motivation and helping them see the possibilities in life.

“Each year is just different based on the group that we’re working with. One of the things that we had a sense of urgency about is I didn’t like the way I see young people talk to each other and behave with each other and I start thinking ‘how do we improve that?’ And the more I thought about it I realized that we have the tools here to attack that. First we have to let them see it for themselves, then they have to see a better model.”

Following an eventful day of activities and a generous lunch, many of the students said that they loved it, that they learned something and want to do it again. Torain plans to make that happen in the spring.

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