Commonwealth ChalleNGe hosts 325 cadets for athletic, academic competition

Cadets from the Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy march in the opening ceremony of the Eastern Regional Invitational May 28, 2015, at Camp Pendleton, Virginia. Cadets from seven ChalleNGe programs and Jamaica competed in the four-day academic and athletic competition. The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program focuses on preparing teenagers who have dropped out of high school, or are on the verge of dropping out of high school, with the skills, discipline and academics to become a productive citizen. (Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Cadets from the Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy march in the opening ceremony of the Eastern Regional Invitational May 28, 2015, at Camp Pendleton, Virginia. Cadets from seven ChalleNGe programs and Jamaica competed in the four-day academic and athletic competition. The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program focuses on preparing teenagers who have dropped out of high school, or are on the verge of dropping out of high school, with the skills, discipline and academics to become a productive citizen. (Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

CAMP PENDLETON, Va. — Cadets from seven ChalleNGe programs and Jamaica competed in a four-day academic and athletic competition hosted by the Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy May 28-31, 2015, at Camp Pendleton, Va.

Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia (left), and retired Navy Capt. Mark Chicoine, director of the Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy (right), present first place trophies to representatives of the Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy and South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy at the conclusion of the four-day Eastern Regional Invitational May 31, 2015, at Camp Pendleton, Va.  (Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia (left), and retired Navy Capt. Mark Chicoine, director of the Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy (right), present first place trophies to representatives of the Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy and South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy at the conclusion of the four-day Eastern Regional Invitational May 31, 2015, at Camp Pendleton, Va. (Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Commonwealth ChalleNGe hosted 325 cadets from four states, the District of Columbia and Jamaica for the Eastern Regional Invitational, in which teams competed in basketball, softball, soccer, chess, triathlon, a drill competition and an academic bowl.

“This was one of the most positive events ever conducted here at Commonwealth ChalleNGe,” said retired Navy Capt. Mark Chicoine, director of Commonwealth ChalleNGe. “It gave our cadets and staff the opportunity interact with cadets and staff from other ChalleNGe Programs and also be introduced to a different culture in Jamaica.”

“The ChalleNGe Invitational was a great event allowing so many of our sister states and Jamaica to showcase the talents of their cadets,” said Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia. “This event was another opportunity to build partnerships and share best practices across the staffs.”

Commonwealth ChalleNGe is the Virginia component of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program, which focuses on preparing teenagers who have dropped out of high school, or are on the verge of dropping out of high school, with the skills, discipline and academics to become a productive citizen.

ChalleNGe cadets from the Tarheel ChalleNGe Academy (North Carolina), South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy, Fort Gordon Youth ChalleNGe (Georgia), Fort Stewart Youth ChalleNGe (Georgia), Freestate ChalleNGe Academy (Maryland) and Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy (D.C.), as well as cadets from Jamaica’s National Interschool Brigade Movement, traveled to Virginia Beach for the event.

“The intent is to grow and make this one of the ChalleNGe program’s premier events,” Chicoine said. “Next year we would like to include between 12-15 ChalleNGe programs from the east coast to include Puerto Rico and Jamaica.”

Cadets from seven ChalleNGe programs and Jamaica compete in the drill competition on the final day of the four-day, Eastern Regional Invitation May 31, 2015, at Camp Pendleton, Va.  (Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Cadets from seven ChalleNGe programs and Jamaica compete in the drill competition on the final day of the four-day, Eastern Regional Invitation May 31, 2015, at Camp Pendleton, Va. (Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

This year’s event was the largest invitational since 2001, according to Myron James, mentor coordinator for ChalleNGe and primary organizer of the invitational. The first ChalleNGe invitational was held in 1998 at the Freestate Challenge Academy at Aberdeen, Md., with Maryland, New York, New Jersey and Virginia participating, he said.

“The concept was to let the cadets showcase what they had learned in military drill and to start somewhat of a fraternity among the cadets by having them meet cadets from other states and share their experiences and their successes in their own ChalleNGe programs,” James, who has been with Commonwealth ChalleNGe since the program began in 1994, said. “It also gave the cadets the opportunity to compete in events they may have otherwise missed out in regular high school.”

The first event had cadets competing in standard drill, inspection drill, exhibition drill and individual knock-out drill, male and female basketball, and a physical fitness contest. By 2001, when Virginia hosted it, the event had grown to as many as 13 programs and more than 700 personnel, according James. That event was a week-long competition which included drill, male and female basketball, jeopardy, chess, triathlon, volleyball, which was later replaced by soccer, and softball. As funding decreased, fewer programs could participate, he said.

“I believe the Invitational promotes esprit de corps, involves teamwork as they develop their own drill strategies, and teaches them how to prioritize their practice schedules with the goals of the academy,” James said. “The invitational reinforces the discipline concept that we employ at ChalleNGe. The cadets become well-rounded teens and I can personally see maturity and growth in each of them.”

For the first time, there were two ties in the final overall standings. Virginia and South Carolina tied for first place while North Carolina and Fort Gordon tied for third place. Maryland finished second in the overall standings.

The Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy is a 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. The Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy operates two residential classes per year. Classes begin in October and March.

Cadets from Jamaica’s National Interschool Brigade Movement compete in the drill competition on the final day of the four-day, Eastern Regional Invitation May 31, 2015, at Camp Pendleton, Va.  (Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Cadets from Jamaica’s National Interschool Brigade Movement compete in the drill competition on the final day of the four-day, Eastern Regional Invitation May 31, 2015, at Camp Pendleton, Va. (Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

There is no charge to the families. Tuition, room and board, and books are provided at no cost to the family. Commonwealth ChalleNGe is funded through the federal and state governments.

Commonwealth ChalleNGe opened its doors in July of 1994. Since then, 42 classes totaling more than 4,000 cadets, have completed this rigorous program and have gone on to lead successful lives.

Final results of the 2015 Eastern Regional Invitational:

Overall:
1st (tie)- Virginia, South Carolina
2nd- Maryland
3rd (tie)- North Carolina, Fort Gordon

Chess:
1st- Virginia
2nd- Maryland
3rd- South Carolina

Soccer:
1st- Maryland
2nd- Virginia
3rd- Jamaica

Softball:
1st- Fort Gordon
2nd- South Carolina
3rd- Maryland

Jeopardy:
1st- Virginia
2nd- North Carolina
3rd- Fort Gordon

Male Basketball:
1st- Maryland
2nd- Fort Gordon
3rd- South Carolina

Female Basketball:
1st- South Carolina
2nd- North Carolina
3rd- Maryland

Triathlon:
1st- Virginia
2nd- South Carolina
3rd- Fort Gordon

Cadets from the South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy compete in the drill competition on the final day of the four-day, Eastern Regional Invitation May 31, 2015, at Camp Pendleton, Va.  (Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Cadets from the South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy compete in the drill competition on the final day of the four-day, Eastern Regional Invitation May 31, 2015, at Camp Pendleton, Va. (Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Photos: Commonwealth ChalleNGe hosts 325 cadets for academic, athletic competition