VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. –
The Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy transitioned 140 candidates to cadets during a ceremony Oct. 12, 2018, at Camp Pendleton State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
“I want you all to think about what you’ve accomplished today,” Mark Chicoine, director of the Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy, told the newly-minted cadets. “You’ve gone through acclimation, which is a real, tough environment. As soon as you’re done reflecting, you need to focus. Now it’s time for you all to perform.”
Walt Mercer, chief operations officer for the Virginia Department of Military Affairs, was on hand to swear in and congratulate the new cadets. In addition to taking the cadet oath, the new cadets were introduced to all of the ChalleNGe staff members, cadre and academic instructors they will be encountering over the next five months.
Now that they have completed the physically taxing, two-week acclimation phase of the program, the cadets will focus on the academic portion of the program.
“You’re now going to have the opportunity to work with our teachers and focus on your education goals. That’s going to be a key building block to your success,” Chicoine explained. “You’re going to have an opportunity to work with our counselors. You’re going to have an opportunity to work with our career counselors, thinking about your placement. They’re going to try to take your dream and make it become a reality.
“Be happy of your achievement and now is when the work begins and we start to realize your goals,” he said.
Commonwealth ChalleNGe is the Virginia component of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program, a 17-and-a-half-month program designed to promote academics, attention to detail, time management, and leadership, while promoting self-esteem, confidence and pride.
It includes a five-and-a-half-month residential program which focuses on preparing at-risk teens and high school dropouts for the General Educational Development test and future employment, military or higher education opportunities.
Ninety-one cadets, including the 5,000th in the history of the Virginia program, graduated during a ceremony for Class 49 Aug. 25, 2018, in Virginia Beach.