Alum Returns From Boot Camp to Teach Gym Class

Alum Returns From Boot Camp to Teach Gym Class

By: Donna Vickroy, Daily Southtown
View the original article here. 

The leap from high school to the rest of one’s life can be a scary one, especially if your chosen path involves a stop at boot camp.

But for Marine Corps Pfc. Josh Urbanski the transition was relatively easy.

The 18-year-old said his Tinley Park High School physical education teacher had prepared him so well for the physical challenges that awaited him with boot camp that he simply had to return the favor.

On Oct. 29, Urbanski returned to his alma mater and showed his appreciation by leading students in a mini boot camp rotation of situps, leg lifts and wind sprints.

Urbanski said the visit was a thank you to teacher Cassie Gaines, who motivated him to work harder than he thought possible while he was a student at the Tinley Park school.

“She prepared me for boot camp by helping me see that I could push myself beyond my own expectations,” he said.

While he was at camp in San Diego, Urbanski sent a letter to Gaines, thanking her for instilling in him the confidence he needed to successfully glide through the Marine Corps’ rigorous agenda.

“He wrote to me, thanking me and saying I was an inspiration for him,” Gaines said. “So I invited him to come back and share what he’s learned.

Gaines said Urbanski had been a member of the Titans football team with a number of the teens enrolled in 10 a.m. physical education that Monday.

Photo of Cassie Gaines
Marine Pfc. Josh Urbanski (back left) credits his gym teacher Cassie Gaines (speaking) class helping him through Marine Corp. boot camp. (Gary Middendorf/Daily Southtown)

“I thought it would be good to expose these kids to Josh’s good character,” she said.

Ezekiel Childs, a junior from Markham, was a teammate and friend of Urbanski’s.

Like the new Marine, Childs said, “I like to work out. And I’m a leader in the weight room.”

Urbanski, he said, “is pretty inspiring. He has a high intensity. He had a big impact on my football life.”

Gaines divided the class into five stations and she, Urbanski and Marine Corps recruiter and GySgt. Cynthia Rivera moved among the groups offering advice and motivation.

It was Urbanski’s second feting in just over a week. The teen was greeted with fanfare the previous weekend when he first returned home since leaving for boot camp. Family, friends and veterans greeted him upon his arrival and he was given a full escort to the Tinley Park American Legion, where the celebration continued.

Gaines attended that event, as well.

After the P.E. workout, Gaines gathered the students and said, “Josh Urbanski was legendary when he was a student here. I want all of you to think about the legend you’re creating.”

Though Urbanski credits Gaines with pushing him, Gaines insists she didn’t do anything special.

Photo of Urbanski holding basketball
Marine Pfc. Josh Urbanski, a 2018 Tinley Park graduate, leads a boot camp gym class at Tinley Park High School. (Gary Middendorf/Daily Southtown)

“I always felt like my workouts weren’t enough for Josh. He pushed me as a teacher,” she said. “When I say he was all energy, I mean every day. He always wanted more, more, more.

“He came with a whole crew of kids who worked really hard in my class,” she said. “Now, watching him, I have no doubt he’s going to be very successful.”

Developing a drive and learning how to strive for goals is an important part of education, Gaines said.

“I’m very passionate about being physically active. I think it’s very important for kids to be physically active and to continue that into their adult lifestyle,” she said. “A lot of the things they learn in P.E. transfer into other aspects of life, particularly building good character, representing yourself with good manners and being genuinely a good person.”

The middle child in a family of three kids, Urbanski said he decided on the Marine Corp when he was a junior.

“It seemed like the best fit for me because I love to be challenged,” he said.

“I’m hoping to become a better person and that the Marines gives me a good future, as long as I work hard,” he said.

Urbanski, who told the students he had to return to San Diego the next day to begin ground electronics maintenance school, encouraged the kids to work hard and always push themselves.

“The secret to getting in shape is to be dedicated to working out,” he said. “A lot of people start but then eventually give themselves too many cheat days and then eventually just give up completely.

“You have to keep at it,” he said.

What he missed most about Chicago while he was in California, he said, was his family.

Photo of Urbanski doing push ups
Marine Pfc. Josh Urbanski, a 2018 Tinley Park High School graduate, leads a boot camp gym class at Tinley Park High School. (Gary Middendorf/Daily Southtown)