Commonwealth ChalleNGe Class 44 transitions from candidates to cadets

Members of Class 44 of the Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy prepare to be sworn in as cadets during a ceremony Oct. 15, 2015, at Camp Pendleton in Virginia Beach, Va. Col. Paul F. Griffin, Virginia National Guard Director of the Joint Staff, and retired Navy Capt. Mark Chicoine, director of Commonwealth ChalleNGe, were on hand to congratulate the new cadets, who completed the physically taxing, two-week acclimation phase and are now focused on the academic portion of the program. (Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

Members of Class 44 of the Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy prepare to be sworn in as cadets during a ceremony Oct. 15, 2015, at Camp Pendleton in Virginia Beach, Va. Col. Paul F. Griffin, Virginia National Guard Director of the Joint Staff, and retired Navy Capt. Mark Chicoine, director of Commonwealth ChalleNGe, were on hand to congratulate the new cadets, who completed the physically taxing, two-week acclimation phase and are now focused on the academic portion of the program. (Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

CAMP PENDLETON, Va. – Members of Class 44 of the Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy transitioned from candidates to cadets during a ceremony Oct. 15, 2015, at Camp Pendleton in Virginia Beach, Va. Col. Paul F. Griffin, Virginia National Guard Director of the Joint Staff, and retired Navy Capt. Mark Chicoine, director of Commonwealth ChalleNGe, were on hand to congratulate the new cadets, who completed the physically taxing, two-week acclimation phase and are now focused on the academic portion of the program.

“I just want to congratulate each and every one of you,” Griffin said. “Take it one step at a time. This is designed for you to succeed. You have great instructors and TAC [teach, advise, counsel] officers. If you need help, raise your hand and let them know you need assistance and guess what? They will help you succeed.”

Col. Paul F. Griffin, Virginia National Guard Director of the Joint Staff, congratulates a cadet during a transition ceremony for Class 44 of the Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy Oct. 15, 2015, at Camp Pendleton in Virginia Beach, Va. More than 100 candidates for Class 44 transitioned to cadets during the ceremony. (Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

Col. Paul F. Griffin, Virginia National Guard Director of the Joint Staff, congratulates a cadet during a transition ceremony for Class 44 of the Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy Oct. 15, 2015, at Camp Pendleton in Virginia Beach, Va. More than 100 candidates for Class 44 transitioned to cadets during the ceremony. (Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

“Everybody sitting here has earned the right to be selected for the ChalleNGe program,” Chicoine said. “It hasn’t been easy over the last 12 days. You should be proud of your accomplishments. “

“The acclimation phase has really been about discipline,” Chicoine added. “Now we really need focus. You need to focus on yourselves, on your platoon, on your company. And together we will do this thing called ChalleNGe.”

There are currently 139 cadets in the Class 44 in three male platoons and one female platoon. Those who successfully complete the program will graduate March 5, 2016.

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 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.

As an alternative education program, cadets have the opportunity to prepare for and take the General Educational Development test. During the residential phase, they also prepare for future employment, military or higher education opportunities.

After the graduates complete the 20-week, residential period of academics, physical fitness, counseling, life skills, and team building, they will move on to a 12-month, post-residential phase.

Commonwealth ChalleNGe opened its doors in July of 1994. Since then, 43 classes totaling more than 4,000 cadets, have completed this rigorous program and have gone on to lead successful lives.

For more information on the Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy, visit http://vachallenge.org.

Members of Class 44 of the Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy prepare to be sworn in as cadets during a ceremony Oct. 15, 2015, at Camp Pendleton in Virginia Beach, Va. Col. Paul F. Griffin, Virginia National Guard Director of the Joint Staff, and retired Navy Capt. Mark Chicoine, director of Commonwealth ChalleNGe, were on hand to congratulate the new cadets, who completed the physically taxing, two-week acclimation phase and are now focused on the academic portion of the program. (Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)

Members of Class 44 of the Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy prepare to be sworn in as cadets during a ceremony Oct. 15, 2015, at Camp Pendleton in Virginia Beach, Va. Col. Paul F. Griffin, Virginia National Guard Director of the Joint Staff, and retired Navy Capt. Mark Chicoine, director of Commonwealth ChalleNGe, were on hand to congratulate the new cadets, who completed the physically taxing, two-week acclimation phase and are now focused on the academic portion of the program. (Photo by Master Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia National Guard Public Affairs)