Heights Middle School Cadet Club members, from left, Emily Miller, Alia Belinte, Jacob Kleinstuber and Christian Lewis on Wednesday work together to move
Heights Middle School Cadet Club members, from left, Emily Miller, Alia Belinte, Jacob Kleinstuber and Christian Lewis on Wednesday work together to move an A-frame at San Juan College in Farmington. (Jon Austria — The Daily Times)

FARMINGTON — With the inspirational phrase 'Pain is Temporary, Pride is Forever' printed on the backs of their T-shirts, students in the Cadet Club at Heights Middle School were tested during a day of team building exercises at San Juan College.

Eric Stovall, Heights social studies teacher, said he started the club this school year after hearing students speak about their interest in the armed services.

"I felt like we needed to implement a cadet club program that would encourage kids to come together as one, to develop and incorporate team building skills, team building concepts and do activities that teach leadership, responsibility and accountability," Stovall said.

The club has participated in a number of events this school year including marching in the Aztec Christmas Festival parade in December and volunteering for a Veteran's Day veteran appreciation ceremony during a middle school football game last year.

About 20 members of the club put their teamwork skills to the test this past Wednesday on the San Juan College campus on the High Endeavors Challenge Course and the indoor climbing wall in the Health and Human Performance Center.

Cpt. Jason Peete of the New Mexico National Guard has been assisting with the club's activities this school year after Stovall asked for his help.

"I want them to learn about leadership, discipline, respect for themselves and their fellow students,' Jason Peete said.

Hazelaina Peete, Jason's daughter, is one of the cadet club team leaders alongside Jayn Medrano. The seventh-graders both said they enjoy giving orders and leading the students.

"I've proven to be a leader in class and I think Stovall gave it to me because I don't like to be a follower," Medrano said.

While at the challenge course, the club broke into two groups to attempt two different tasks focusing on coordination and communication.

Heights Middle School Cadet Club members on Wednesday push Hazelaina Peete on a rope swing at San Juan College in Farmington.
Heights Middle School Cadet Club members on Wednesday push Hazelaina Peete on a rope swing at San Juan College in Farmington. (Jon Austria — The Daily Times)

One group had to move an A-shaped wooden frame using ropes pulled by the students.

The other group had a team member swing on a rope across a small ditch and place tennis balls into an empty coffee can.

Seventh-grader Nate Sanders said the students struggled with how much force to push or pull the person on the rope without knocking the coffee can over, causing them to restart the challenge.

"It's very, very hard and it's confusing too," Sanders said.

Sanders said communication was difficult as everyone was talking at the same time.

Hazelaina Peete took a turn on the rope, struggling to put the tennis ball in the coffee can as she tried to adjust for the speed of her swing.

"We trust each other and stuff but we don't cooperate very well," Peete said.

Stovall said he believes the students joined the club to test themselves.

"I think they wanted to challenge themselves," Stovall said. "I think that's the key, they want to compete, they want to learn the concepts of teamwork and leadership and this lets them develop those skill sets for the future."

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or jkellogg@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @jkelloggdt.