By Edwin Wriston
West Virginia National Guard Public Affairs
The West Virginia National Guard’s Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy graduated 73 cadets as a part of Class 56 today.
“One of the absolute best things I get to do as The Adjutant General is to be with our MCA cadets and families on their graduation to celebrate their accomplishments,” said Brig. Gen. William “Bill” Crane, the Adjutant General of the West Virginia National Guard. “I could not be more proud of all they have achieved, which includes having the second highest rate of cadets earning their High School diploma in the program’s history. It is a testament to the hard work and dedication of these young men and women, as well as the faculty and staff who assist them in their transformation while at MCA. This program absolutely changes lives in the Mountain State and I look forward to all the great things our graduating cadets will achieve in the future.”
Class 56 has 68 cadets, or 93 percent, graduating the program with a high school diploma. Of those graduating, 58 percent (42 cadets) plan to join the workforce, 12 percent (9 cadets) plan to join the military, 10 percent (7 cadets) plan to attend a vocational/technical program and five percent (4 cadets) plan to go onto a four-year college program. Fifteen percent of the class (11 cadets) plan to participate in the Mountaineer Job ChalleNGe Program after graduation.
Class 56 represents 23 different counties throughout the Mountain State, with Kanawha County having the highest enrollment for the course with 14 cadets.
Throughout the 22-week program, cadets provided more than 2,309 hours of community service through five different projects, a recognized value of more than $65,898.00.
The mission of the Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy is to train and mentor selected at-risk youth to become contributing members of society using the Eight Core Components in a quasi-military environment during a 22-week residential and one-year post-residential follow-up program. It is a free volunteer program for West Virginia youth ages 16 to 18 years old who are educationally at-risk.
Since its inception in 1993, the Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy has graduated 4,906 cadets from the program with 1,873 receiving their high school diploma.
Award winners from the program are as follows:
This award recognizes the Top Over-All Cadet for the entire 22-week residential phase of the ChalleNGe Program. This Cadet will have demonstrated leadership, academic improvement, and effort in physical training on the Progress Reports.
ROBERT C. BYRD DISTINGUISHED CADET AWARD
Cadet Louie Gauze
Maidsville, Monongalia County
Son of Jackie Tidwell
ADJUTANT GENERAL’S AWARD FOR ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE
Cadet Justin Suszek
Parkersburg, Wood County
Son of Kristen Suszek and Justin Suszek
Cadet Brandon Grubb
Winfield, Putnam County
Son of Bo Grubb and Tina Smith
ACADEMIC CHALLENGE AWARD
Cadet Zander Hall
Camp Creek, Mercer County
Son of John and Heather Hall
MOST IMPROVED CADET AWARD
Cadet Robert Fowlkes
Charleston, Kanawha County
Son of Misti Ashworth
“ESPRIT DE CORPS” AWARD
Cadet Mark McCoy
Big Creek, Logan County
Son of Mark and Jessica McCoy
“IRON MIKE” AWARD FOR PHYSICAL FITNESS
Cadet Terrence Booker
Fairmont, Marion County
Son of Jessica Plever