Over 140 young people from around the state have cleared the initial hurdle in their participation in the Michigan Youth Challenge Academy. The program is run by the Michigan National Guard at both Fort Custer and the VA Medical Center just to the north. Last Friday, traffic was held up on M-96 through the fort, as the program participants did a long run from barracks at the fort, to a different residential setting on the grounds of the medical center.  Completing the run signified completion of an initial two week acclimation period.

Photo courtesy: MYCA
Photo courtesy: MYCA

Following a ceremony on Sunday, they are now considered cadets in the Academy. They’ll spend about 5 months there, immersed in a wide-ranging curriculum with instructors from the Marshall Public Schools who have classrooms on site.  The program is offered to young people between the ages of 16-18 who have dropped out of high school or are at-risk of dropping out. It offers a second chance to take control of their future by providing life skills, education, and job preparation. The new cadets also have access to online courses to work on making up credits. Three evenings a week they also attend the Calhoun Area Career Center for trade/technical education. They also can earn up to 21 credits through Kellogg Community College while they are training with the Academy. The residential phase of the Academy is followed by a 12-month mentorship in their home community. Even though the Michigan National Guard runs the Academy, it is a “quasi-military” environment. Some aspects are similar to military structure, but it is not the military. There is no obligation to enlist following graduation. The military model offers many deliberate teaching points that are especially helpful for at-risk youth.

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