National Guard castle rises on Irma Boulevard

Wade McIntyre
Job Challenge Program masonry instructor Jimmie Sanders, left, worked with program cadets Wednesday who are building a castle display in front of the National Guard headquarters on Irma Boulevard. The cadets pictured are Earnest Toussaint, Baton Rouge; Amber Klopenstine, Broussard; and Elaine Abair, New Orleans.

A group of Job Challenge Program students from the Gillis W. Long Center in Carville and their instructors spent the past several weeks battling heat and rains to construct a miniature castle in front of the National Guard facility on Irma Boulevard.

When completed next week, the 5-foot, 11-inch tall castle will stretch out about 11 feet wide and house the local guard insignia.

Head of the project is Duke Sanders, a carpentry instructor with the JCP. Jimmie Sanders, a JCP instructor, is in charge of masonry work on the project.

“A job like this takes years of training,” Jimmie Sanders said, admitting that a couple of masons were brought in to help the students from time to time. But the cadets, as they are called in JCP jargon, were doing well Wednesday morning as they put the finishing touches on the project.

The castle building project is part of a five-month JCP program that teaches cadets overall life skills. The trade portion of the program seeks to advance and instill in the kids a basic knowledge of the trades involved.

There are, in fact, 16 chapters in the JCP construction technology textbook, including blueprint reading, drainage, placing concrete, masonry techniques, plumbing and electrical techniques.

“When they leave us, I would classify them as good helpers on a construction job,” Duke Sanders said.

Jimmie Sanders teaches cadets how to lay a line and introduces them to mason’s trough, then moves them on to cutting bricks and spreading mortar.

“It’s hard work, but you can make a good living,” he said. “I’ve been doing this 33 years.”

Duke Sanders agreed.

“We tell the cadets this is an outstanding field to go into," he said. "You can make good money, more than some college graduates. But, it’s not easy. You work in the cold, rain and heat.”

One advantage of the JCP program is that it allows the cadets who do  not yet have a GED to continue working on the diploma while working with JCP.

“We call it Circle K training,” Duke Sanders said. “Cadets can learn a trade, get their GED and even get their driver’s license while they are with us. It’s one-stop job training.”

The 2,300 bricks required to build the National Guard castle display were donated by Economy Brick Sales in Gonzales.