SALT LAKE CITY -- Since 1961, some of Utah’s high school seniors have taken part in the Freedom Academy, which is hosted by the Utah National Guard.
The goal is to improve the teens’ leadership skills and to help them appreciate the freedoms we have in America.
More than 100 delegates from high schools around Utah are attending the week-long leadership courses.
"It's a chance for them to grow, to work together as a team, but more importantly: to come together and figure out difficult problems,” said Lt. Col. John Derrington of the Utah National Guard, who is also the director of the Freedom Academy.
Those problems include things like getting a box of ammo across a body of water by using a ladder, a barrel, or a metal plank.
It’s not as easy as it looks, and as Salem Hills High School Senior Sarah Deeb points out, "It's a lot colder than it looks."
The students also hit a military-style obstacle course, which included rappelling off the side of a very tall platform, taking a wild ride on a zip line and overcoming fear.
"For me it was really scary because I’m super afraid of heights, and so I was really scared,” said Rachel Broadhead, a senior at Layton High School. “But having like my team members with me, like, cheering me on and that really helped me jump off and face my fears."
The main reason the Freedom Academy exists is to help students learn to appreciate the freedoms we have in the United States. Another goal is finding and developing future leaders.
"The National Guard and America in general is such a great place, and we don't know how good we have it here and those guys go out to defend our country so we don't have to sacrifice the things that we want,” said Hayden Lowry, a senior at Copper Hills High School.
Brogan Reynolds, a senior at Wayne High, said attending the academy has been a long-time ambition.
“My sister went, so I've always wanted to go to this, so I was kind of honored, because I know kind of like my teacher like wants me to be a leader, and she knows I can be,” Reynolds said.
The students also visited the prison and the federal courthouse as well as the governor's office and the legislature.
If you are a junior this upcoming year and would like to take part in Freedom Academy your senior year, be sure to tell your school counselor--who can help you get signed up.