An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : News : Article View
NEWS | June 5, 2020

Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy stays on track despite virus

By Maj. Holli Nelson West Virginia National Guard

KINGWOOD, W.Va. – As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to maintain its grip on the United States, the Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy (MCA) has developed innovative ways to ensure at-risk youth can continue the course and, for some, earn their high school diploma.

West Virginia was one of the last states in the nation to announce its first case of COVID-19. As cases were reported and schools were shut down across the state, it was evident that the MCA would need to send its cohort of cadets home to finish their education.

On March 21, Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, the adjutant general of the West Virginia National Guard (WVNG), made the difficult decision to shutter the academy until it was safe to bring students back.

Traditionally, cadets go through a five-month residential phase at Camp Dawson. With the pandemic altering educational paths throughout the nation, it was imperative that a plan was in place to ensure their education could continue without interruption, said Dianna Trickett, program director for the MCA.

“Immediately, we started online education curriculum through various platforms and also created a private Facebook group where cadets could connect and share information with one another and their parents or guardians,” she said.

ChalleNGe Academy teachers held education sessions three times a day during the week. Also, each cadet was assigned an MCA staff member who made daily contact to assess any needs – whether that be educational, physical or emotional.

Upon their departure from Camp Dawson, each cadet was given options. They could continue with online education and return in June to complete testing for the program, discontinue the online education and return to MCA in a future class, or discontinue online education and remove themselves from the program. Of the 157 cadets who started the program in January, 108 chose to remain in the program and continue with testing, 41 chose to return in a future class and eight left.

“We have all but a few cadets who have chosen to continue on in the program,” Hoyer noted. “I think it’s a great testament to our staff and faculty. It is exceptionally important that we continue to support these young folks, as they have put in so much work during this unprecedented time to complete the ChalleNGe Academy and earn their diploma. I couldn’t be more proud of these young men and women.”

This week, the WVNG has been working with MCA staff and cadets to ensure they are prepared to take their end-of-course exam in a safe manner consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. COVID-19 testing is ongoing for the 100 cadets who met all the requirements to be eligible to return for their final test.

“I didn’t want to go home because I was so used to the routine [at MCA],” said Analisa Wood, a cadet from Dunbar who aspires to join the Marine Corps. “I was excited to be able to return, take my test and have the chance to earn my diploma. I have had so many opportunities [at MCA] that I wouldn’t have gotten if I would have stayed in a regular high school, and I’m thankful for that.”

All staff and cadre who are assisting in the exam were tested beginning May 29, using the WVNG’s mobile testing lab that can deliver results in 15 minutes. The mobile testing unit went to designated locations across the state where cadets were tested. Once cleared with a negative result, they will be transported to Camp Dawson.

Beginning in October, the MCA is expanding into its second location in Montgomery, where an additional 200 cadets can attend a National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program. Currently, MCA North graduates approximately 300 cadets each year, with around 85% earning their high school diploma through the program.

MCA helps to redirect the lives of teens who have fallen behind in the traditional education system. With graduates from all 55 counties, MCA offers a safe, structured training environment for volunteer youth who strive to improve their lives.

Since its inception in 1993, the MCA has graduated 4,663 cadets from the program, with 1,704 earning their high school diploma through the West Virginia Department of Education Options Pathway Program.

 

 

Related Articles
Spc. Carter Cooper of the Virginia National Guard and Staff Sgt. Alexander Wilkinson-Johnson of the Maryland National Guard were named the National Guard Bureau’s Region Il Best Warriors for 2024 in the Soldier of the Year and Noncommissioned Officer categories at Aberdeen Proving Ground-Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland, May 10, 2024.
Maryland, Virginia Guardsmen Are Regional Best Warriors
By Maj. Erica Mitchell, | May 13, 2024
EDGEWOOD, Md. – After four days of competition, Spc. Carter Cooper and Staff Sgt. Alexander Wilkinson-Johnson were named the National Guard Bureau’s Region II Best Warriors for 2024 in the Soldier of the Year and...

A U.S. Army M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System from Alpha Battery, 5-113th Field Artillery Battalion, North Carolina National Guard, is loaded into a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft with the 167th Airlift Wing as part of a live-fire exercise during exercise Sentry Unicorn 2024 at Holland Drop Zone, Vass, North Carolina, Apr. 20, 2024. Held in tandem with the West Virginia National Guard Sentry Storm exercise, Sentry Unicorn 2024 served as a Readiness Exercise Validation to gauge the wing’s self-assessment capabilities.
West Virginia’s 167th Wing Conducts Readiness Exercise
By Senior Master Sgt. Emily Beightol-Deyerle, | May 10, 2024
MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The 167th Airlift Wing completed a four-day Readiness Exercise Validation, Sentry Unicorn 2024, at Shepherd Field April 21.Held in tandem with the West Virginia National Guard’s Sentry Storm 2024...

Maj. Gen. Bill Crane, adjutant general of the West Virginia National Guard, laughs with Gen. Orestes Vargas, Peruvian Army chief of staff, in Lima, Peru, in late March 2024. The West Virginia Guard partners with Peru, Qatar and Gabon via the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program.
West Virginia Guard Expands International Partnerships
By Edwin Wriston, | April 16, 2024
CHARLESTON, W. Va. - West Virginia National Guard leaders traveled to Peru and Qatar to build and expand international partnerships through the State Partnership Program.The West Virginia National Guard partners with Peru,...