By Edwin Wriston
| West Virginia National Guard Public Affairs | Oct. 7, 2020
Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy Mother Trisha Miller poses with her son, Alexander, and his siblings. Miller was so impressed with the experience her son is having in the MCA program, that she has become an employee at the newly opened Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy - South located in Montgomery, West Virginia. (Courtesy Photo) (Photo by Courtesy Photo)
Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy cadet Alexander Miller salutes the camera. Miller's Mother, Trisha, was so impressed with the experience her son is having in the MCA program, that she has become an employee at the newly opened Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy - South located in Montgomery, West Virginia. (Courtesy Photo) (Photo by Courtesy Photo)
Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy cadet Davey Hayes poses with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin during MCA graduation ceremonies. Hayes has taken on a new role as Group Leader at the newly opened Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy - South located in Montgomery, West Virginia, and hopes to use his personal experience with the program to help new cadets prosper in the program. (Courtesy Photo) (Photo by Courtesy Photo)
The West Virginia National Guard’s Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy South, located in Montgomery, West Virginia, is scheduled to begin instruction for its first class of cadets, Oct. 11, 2020, and is welcoming former cadets and parents to its staff roster.
As MCA South began filling jobs in the Upper Kanawha Valley to support the new school, many former cadets or parents of former cadets applied to work at the Montgomery campus, choosing to give back to the program that helped change their lives.
“The program has been such a positive impact on my life,” said former cadet Davey Hayes. “Before the MCA and I just didn’t really care about where my life was taking me. I hated normal school, I never went, my GPA was terrible, and I definitely was heading down a wrong path in my life. MCA taught me that getting an education was the core foundation to succeed in life, while also teaching me that hard work, dedication, and discipline are the keys to success.”
The program is no less impactful from a parent’s perspective according to current cadet mother Trisha Miller.
“Before my Son Alexander left his high school to attend MCA North, he was asked by a teacher what his future plans were. Alex responded by saying he felt worthless and didn’t see much of a future at all. He was really down on himself and didn’t associate with his peers very well. He was struggling, and realized he wasn’t going to have enough credits to graduate. He came to his dad and I and asked if he could attend the MCA and after research, we thought it would be a tremendous opportunity for him.”
“Now, even though he is still in the program, his entire outlook on life has changed. He carries himself with confidence and his self-esteem has shot through the roof! He has a purpose and goals, including attending the NASCAR Technical Institute to become a crew mechanic,” she added.
In total, seven former cadets and two parents of former and current cadets have accepted various positions at MCA South.
“MCA South will be a tremendous benefit to the cadets who attend, as well as the entire Upper Kanawha Valley and Montgomery,” stated Miller. “Doubling the opportunities for at-risk teens in West Virginia to attend will bring purpose and direction to so many lives, and I am so very proud to be a part of that. If I can reach even one cadet... to give them courage and hope and to inspire them... and to help them look towards a brighter future like the MCA has helped my son, then that’s something so worthwhile.”
“As a former Cadet, I know first-hand the power of the MCA,” said Hayes. “Any teen who struggles in school, who has had a rough home life, who fall into drugs, gangs and who has never had a true support system behind them needs the type of structure and hope the MCA provides. The cadets who graduate from here will be the future police officers, nurses, doctors, and political leaders of West Virginia. Without the ChalleNGe Academy, they may never have a chance to fulfill their true potential. I cannot wait to give back to this program that has been so instrumental in giving me a brighter future and hope I can help the cadets I will be leading as a Squad Leader to reach for their own stars.”
“Giving new cadets the same opportunities and a chance to take control of their lives again is what it is all about,” he added.
The MCA South will become the Southern West Virginia partner to the original MCA located at Camp Dawson in Kingwood, West Virginia. The school will be located on the former West Virginia University Institute of Technology campus in Montgomery and will open opportunities for more students across West Virginia to participate in the program. MCA South will operate two classes per year beginning October, graduating approximately 100 students each cycle.
Launched in 1993, the National Guard ChalleNGe program has grown to include 41 programs in 30 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C., and has impacted the lives of more than 174,000 youth, including 4,663 in West Virginia.
The MCA has been recognized as one of the nation’s most effective and cost-efficient programs for targeting educationally at-risk youth. In 2019, it continued its long history of excellence by being named as the National Guard Youth Foundation’s Program of the Year.
To learn more about the Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy, go to: http://wvchallenge.org
To learn more about the NGYF’s mission and initiatives, please visit www.ngyf.org.