MADISON, Wisc. - Several graduates of the Wisconsin National Guard's ChalleNGe Academy have embarked on a new challenge.
Following the 22-week residential phase at Fort McCoy, ChalleNGe graduates are expected to find employment or enroll in post-secondary education as part of their 12-month post-residential phase.
Rather than taking the conventional path, eight of those graduates have completed four weeks of initial training and were inducted into the AmeriCorps National Civilian Corps in Vinton, Iowa on March 16.
For the next nine months, Samantha Czerkas, Devan Farnsworth, Brett Hrdlicka, Theda LeFlore, Taylor Maciosek, Samuel Puchalla, Ryan Skiff and Starr Spencer will perform service to community projects across the Midwest.
"I have never traveled outside of Wisconsin," Skiff said."[I] am looking forward to this opportunity."
For six weeks, LeFlore will work with a team serving the Augusta, Mich., YMCA as cabin leaders for school groups. She will also assist in their Integrated Education Program.
"I am excited for my first project because I get to work with children and make a difference," she said.
The other cadets are assigned to different projects including building homes, managing invasive species, preparing income tax returns or developing and restoring trail systems for their first round projects.
AmeriCorps staff described the Youth ChalleNGe cadets, who currently represent about 10 percent of the Corps, as disciplined and respectful. Wisconsin National Guard ChalleNGe Academy Director M.G. MacLaren and members of the counseling department attended the induction ceremony to support the cadets' attendance in the program.
NCCC provides an opportunity for those seeking experience in helping others, working as a team and giving back to the community. AmeriCorps also offers its members an educational award to help finance school following their term of service.
The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program and AmeriCorps NCCC have partnered with the goal of helping more cadets transition into community service work with NCCC.
The ChalleNGe Academy reshapes the lives of at-risk 16- to 18-year-olds. A structured, military-style environment and state-certified teachers and counselors build cadets' academic abilities, character, self-confidence and personal discipline.