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Students find a challenge brings out teamwork
Jackson Coker, 18, lowers himself from the high platform of the Lake Lanier Islands ropes course Monday morning after joining other youths from the Hall County Honors Mentorship Program as part of a team building day for the group.

Balancing on a thin cable some 30 feet in the air may seem like a strange place to work on team dynamics, but that’s exactly what a group of Hall County students did Monday.

The 36 members of the Hall County Honors Mentorship Program were busy working on team-building skills while completing a series of tasks outlined by ropes course facilitators at Lake Lanier Islands.

"It was awesome," said Dung Nguyen, a 16-year-old Hall County student. "I could do it 10 times a day."

Their classroom for the day was a series of raised wooden platforms connected by thin cables. The students were connected to the cables using harnesses and had to work as a team to figure out how to reach each of the
platforms. There are two levels to the course — a portion 30 feet above the ground and the higher portion 42 feet above the ground.

"Each section is designed is such a way that if you tried to complete it as an individual, failure is a likely outcome," said Shane Shullard, one of the ropes course facilitators. "This is a really effective tool in building teams because the different scenarios force the individuals to think like a team, even if they don’t want to."

To reach the suspended ropes course, students had to climb up a cargo net. To reach the ground, the students had two options — either climb back down the cargo net, or complete the course and propel down the other end. The goal was to get the students to choose the latter option. Only one student didn’t complete the course.

There were several challenges the students had to complete to reach the other side. One involved maneuvering through a vertical maze of cables, while the other challenges included figuring out how to get the team from one larger platform to the next via four, sliding mini platforms.

"It was really a lot of fun. It really makes you work together as a team," said Jackson Coker, an 18-year-old Hall County student.

According to its Web site, the mentorship program is an academic elective for "gifted and other highly motivated juniors and seniors who are intensely interested in a particular area of study and who have demonstrated the maturity to pursue in-depth learning in a professional setting." The program pairs the students with community professionals, who help provide "real-life career experiences."

Although the ropes course wasn’t directly related to the students’ career fields of choice, the overall aim was to provide the students with tools to help them be successful in any position they choose.

"The over riding objective for this experience is to design and implement an atmosphere fostering teamwork and relationships while having fun," said Kathy Mellette, one of the mentorship program coordinators.

Mellette says other objectives for the day included teaching the students how to "implement ideas and amend them as needed to be successful" and how to "explore problem solving tactics."

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