Commonwealth ChalleNGe graduates 152 at Virginia Beach ceremony

Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long, the Adjutant General of Virginia (second from right), Brig. Gen. Wayne Wright, the Deputy Adjutant General of Virginia (second from left), and retired Lt. Cmdr. Richard Guzman, Deputy Commander of the Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy (left), congratulate the graduates of ChalleNGe Class 37 Dec. 22, 2012 at Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — One hundred and fifty two cadets of Class 37 of the Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Program walked across the stage Dec. 22 at Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach for the second largest graduating class in ChalleNGe history.

Cadets received congratulations from retired Col. Jimmy J. Chandler, Director of ChalleNGe, retired Lt. Cmdr. Richard Guzman, Deputy Commander of ChalleNGe, and Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms, who was the guest speaker for the ceremony.

Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Long Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia, Brig. Gen. Wayne A. Wright, the Deputy Adjutant General of Virginia, Brig. Gen. Janice Igou, Virginia National Guard Director of Interagency Operations, and Command Sgt. Maj. Dennis A. Green, the Virginia National Guard Senior Enlisted Leader, were all on hand to represent the Virginia National Guard and recognize the graduates.

The Virginia National Guard’s 29th Division Band provided music for the ceremony.

“Life is challenging and what this program has done is help them deal with those difficulties when they leave here,” Long said of the graduates. “When you talk to them you can tell they’re different people. They’re better people today because of this program.”

Long also took the opportunity to congratulate the ChalleNGe staff for their work with Class 37.

Commonwealth ChalleNGe is the Virginia component of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe 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. Offered free to at-risk teens ages 16 to 18 in Virginia, Commonwealth ChalleNGe is a statewide co-educational program with two components- a 22-week quasi-military residential phase and a 12-month post-residential phase. The 152 graduates of Class 37 make it the second largest class in Commonwealth ChalleNGe history. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

“On behalf of the almost 9,000 men and women of the Virginia National Guard and on behalf of the Governor of the Commonwealth who is extremely proud of this program, we want to present Col. Jay Chandler and his folks with a letter from the governor,” Long explained. “It’s an honor to be here and present this.”

Wright read the letter from the governor thanking and congratulating the ChalleNGe staff for all their hard work and dedication.

“All of you know how your children were before they came here,” Wright said. “Because of Col. Chandler and his staff, they are standing here today.”

“Congratulations to all these men and women,” Long added. “This is an awesome program and a great program and I ask you to take advantage of everything you learned here and everything all these great people shared with you while you were here.”

Commonwealth ChalleNGe is the Virginia component of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe 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. Offered free to at-risk teens ages 16 to 18 in Virginia, Commonwealth ChalleNGe is a statewide co-educational program with two components- a 22-week quasi-military residential phase and a 12-month post-residential phase.

“This core component exposes cadets to the value of volunteerism and allows them to experience the impact of their efforts on their community and gain work experience,” said Chandler. “Programs work with non-profit organizations, federal and state agencies, and other civic organizations, as well as conservation groups, to identify opportunities for volunteer service.”

During the 22-week residential phase, cadet studies center on the eight components of the program- academics, life-coping skills, work skills, citizenship, leadership, health education, physical fitness and community service. Cadets have the opportunity to take the GED test and establish a life plan (continued education, employment or military service) during this phase.

In the 12-month post-residential phase, a stage Class 37 has now reached, a mentor guides each of the cadets as they follow through with the life plan established during the residential phase.

The 152 graduates of Class 37 make it the second largest class in Commonwealth ChalleNGe history. Over 3,600 Virginia teens have graduated from Commonwealth ChalleNGe since it started in 1994.


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