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NEWS | Aug. 28, 2017

Commonwealth ChalleNGe Class 47 graduates 116 cadets

By Staff Sgt. Amanda Johnson | Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office

The Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy graduated 116 cadets from Class 47 in a ceremony held Aug. 26, 2017, at Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Maj . Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia; Brig. Gen. Paul F. Griffin, Director of the Joint Staff of the Virginia National Guard; and retired Navy Capt. Mark Chicoine, Director of the Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy, congratulated the cadets on finishing the five-and-a-half month residential portion of the program.

The Commonwealth ChalleNGe Program works with youth between the ages of 16 to 18 to focus and make positive improvements during the residential phase. The program’s mission is to intervene in the life of at-risk youth by providing the values, skills, education and self-discipline needed to produce responsible, productive citizens, and to do so in a highly disciplined atmosphere.

“As a career law enforcement officer and elected official, I travel all over the Commonwealth. I always get the question of what does our future look like, and what are we going to do about the problems we face in our future,” said guest speaker Rocky Holcomb, a captain in the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office and elected delegate. “Well, the answer is clear here this morning, folks, right here’s our future, look at Class 47.”

ChalleNGe is 17-and-a-half-month program that is structured in a military-style environment designed to promote academics, attention to detail, time management, and leadership, while promoting self-esteem, confidence and pride.

Each Commonwealth ChalleNGe class accepts up to 180 youth per session. Cadets spend five-and-a-half months in residence at the Commonwealth ChalleNGe academy. After cadets complete the residential phase of training, they begin the 12 month post-residential phase and work with their mentors and career counselors to ensure they are placed in either employment, continued education or enter military service.

“You have been given the gift of how to succeed in life,” said Holcomb, describing the various obstacles the youth overcame during the course. “More importantly, you have been given the incredible opportunity to re-invent yourself by leaving your past behind and giving yourself a fresh start.”

The cadets, as a whole have completed over 18,000 hours of community service with an estimated market value of $130,000 explained retired Army Sgt. Maj. Robert Laury, program coordinator for the ChalleNGe academy. The youth participated in community service with public area clean up, maintained Camp Pendleton, assisted the efforts of the Virginia Beach Convention Center, Virginia Beach Parks and Recreation and voter registration.

“I can tell you without any reservations, we have the best there is on Camp Pendleton because of our cadets,” said Laury.

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