42 Cadets Graduate from Keystone State ChalleNGe Academy, Embracing New Futures

Keystone State ChalleNGe Academy Graduates First Class of 2024Credit: Commonwealth Media Services

ANNVILLE, PA — On Saturday, 42 cadets from the Keystone State ChalleNGe Academy (KSCA) graduated from the 22-week residential phase of their program. They are now poised for brighter futures, equipped with new skills and renewed hope.

The KSCA is designed to give at-risk teens a second chance at obtaining their basic education. It offers them the opportunity to learn leadership, self-discipline, and responsibility. Over the 22 weeks, cadets participated in community service events, such as volunteering at food banks, assisting with the annual March for the Fallen, and maintaining national cemetery, park, and military ceremony grounds.

Maj. Gen. Mark Schindler, Pennsylvania’s adjutant general and head of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA), praised the cadets’ achievements. “This class has many accomplishments that we can all be proud of. Most notably is their willingness to take control of their lives, putting them on a path to a positive future,” he said. “They have bright futures ahead of them, and we look forward to their future accomplishments and contributions to our communities.”

The Program’s Structure and Goals

The Keystone State ChalleNGe Academy opened in July 2022 at Fort Indiantown Gap (FTIG) in Lebanon County. It established the National Guard Bureau’s Youth ChalleNGe Program in Pennsylvania. The program targets 16- to 18-year-old Pennsylvania residents who are struggling in high school or are not on track to graduate. Applicants must be drug-free, free of felony convictions, and willing to voluntarily commit to the program.

The program lasts for 17½ months. The first 22 weeks involve residential training at FTIG. This is followed by at least one year of mentorship in their home communities. During this mentorship phase, cadets will continue their education, join the workforce, or enter the military.

Cadets are introduced to a military structure and focus on eight core components:

  • Academic Excellence
  • Physical Fitness
  • Leadership/Followership
  • Responsible Citizenship
  • Job Skills
  • Service to the Community
  • Health and Hygiene
  • Life Coping Skills

Graduates often receive high school credits, credentials, or a GED. There is no tuition cost to attend. Meals, housing, uniforms, and school supplies are provided at no charge.

The Impact of KSCA Program

Programs like the KSCA are crucial for addressing the needs of at-risk youth. These young people often face significant barriers to success, including academic struggles and unstable home environments. By providing structure, education, and personal development opportunities, the KSCA helps them build a foundation for a better future.

The community service aspect of the program also instills a sense of civic duty and responsibility. It shows cadets the importance of contributing to their communities, fostering a spirit of giving back that can last a lifetime.

Empowering Youth

The success of the KSCA could have broader implications for addressing youth challenges nationwide. With more than 200,000 young people having completed the ChalleNGe program since its inception in 1993, it has proven to be one of the nation’s most effective and cost-efficient programs for helping at-risk youth. The federal and state-funded program currently operates 40 sites in 28 states and territories.

By continuing to support and expand programs like the KSCA, society can help more young people overcome their obstacles and achieve their full potential. This not only benefits the individuals involved but also strengthens communities and the nation as a whole.

The Next KSCA Class Starting in July

The KSCA is now accepting applications for its next class, which begins in July. Interested applicants should meet the eligibility requirements and can contact the academy for further information. There is no cost to attend, making it an accessible option for those in need.

In summary, the graduation of these 42 cadets marks the beginning of new, hopeful chapters in their lives. The KSCA’s comprehensive program offers a lifeline to at-risk youth, equipping them with the skills and support needed to succeed. As these young individuals move forward, their achievements will stand as a testament to the power of second chances and the impact of dedicated mentorship.

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