Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy Class 43 graduates 92 cadets

Retired Navy Capt. Mark Chicoine, Director of the Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy, congratulates the graduates of Class 43 Aug. 22, 2015, at Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach. 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.

Retired Navy Capt. Mark Chicoine, Director of the Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy, congratulates the graduates of Class 43 Aug. 22, 2015, at Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach. 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.
(Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy graduated 92 cadets during a commencement ceremony for Class 43 Aug. 22, 2015, at Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach. Dr. Michelle Woodhouse, provost of the Fred W. Beazley Portsmouth Campus of Tidewater Community College, was the guest speaker. Maj. Gen. Timothy P. Williams, the Adjutant General of Virginia, was on hand to congratulate the graduates and the Clifton Forge-based 29th Division Band performed ceremonial music for the event.

Michelle Woodhouse, provost of the Fred W. Beazley Portsmouth Campus of Tidewater Community College, speaks to the graduates of Class 43 of the Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy Aug. 22, 2015, at Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach. (Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

Michelle Woodhouse, provost of the Fred W. Beazley Portsmouth Campus of Tidewater Community College, speaks to the graduates of Class 43 of the Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy Aug. 22, 2015, at Ocean Lakes High School in Virginia Beach. (Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

“You should all be extremely proud,” Woodhouse said. “You’ve had to be disciplined. You’ve had to be focused and you’ve had to be dedicated to achieve success. More importantly, each of you has experienced an obstacle, a complication or a life circumstance which could have defined your path in life or stopped you from getting where you wanted to go. But that is in the past and this is the present. We’re here to celebrate your accomplishment.”

“Class 43, I’ve had the opportunity to see you transition from a group of individuals to a company of teammates by learning to resolve conflict, live and work together, share both the good times and the bad times,” said retired Navy Capt. Mark Chicoine, Director of ChalleNGe. “Today you become graduates and alumni and the most valuable lesson you can take away from the ChalleNGe program is perseverance. None of you quit. You may have thought about it but you didn’t. That feeling of ‘I did it’ and ‘I can do it’ will serve you for the rest of your lives.”

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 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. The graduates have completed the 22-week, residential period of academics, physical fitness, counseling, life skills, and team building and now move on to a 12-month, post-residential phase.

“For many, many years I have watched this program from afar,” Woodhouse said. “What I have experienced are stellar people who are ready to take on the world.”

“This is a high-achieving class, one of the highest achieving since I’ve been here,” Chicoine said. “This class really excelled.”
Class 43 had 31 cadets complete high school credits. In all, they combined to complete 171 credits. Forty-four cadets successfully completed their individualized credit recovery curriculum and will return to their respective high schools to earn their high school diplomas. Three of those cadets satisfied their high school class requirements while at ChalleNGe, earning their high school diplomas and attending their high school graduation ceremonies.

In addition, one cadet from Class 43 passed his GED early in the program and attended classes at Tidewater Community College while still in the residential phase of ChalleNGe.

The Virginia National Guard’s Clifton Forge-based 29th Division Band provides ceremonial music for the graduation of Class 43 of the Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy. (Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

The Virginia National Guard’s Clifton Forge-based 29th Division Band provides ceremonial music for the graduation of Class 43 of the Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy. (Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

Class 43 completed a total of 7,162 hours of service to the local community, an average of more than 78 hours per cadet.

“Thank you parents and guardians for your patience and support,” Chicoine said. “Continue to promote the success they have achieved and remember they’re alumni now so if there’s anything we can do to help them, call us and we’ll help.”

“Everybody that’s in this audience has had a hand in a cadet’s life,” Williams said. “Thank you for what you did, what you’re doing and what you’re going to do. I have no doubt in my mind the staff that runs this program is the best in the country and we’re very fortunate to have them. Thank you for what you do and the amazing passion you bring to the program.”
Commonwealth ChalleNGe is funded through the federal and state governments. Tuition, room and board, and books are provided at no cost to the family. There are two residential classes per year. Classes begin in October and March.

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.

For more information about ChalleNGe, visit- http://www.vachallenge.org/

Photos: Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy Class 43 graduates 92 cadets