ChalleNGe hosts career fair, parent & mentor workshops as cadets prepare to graduate

The Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy held a career fair Feb. 19, 2016, at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. Pictured are (left to right) Cadet Christian Roberts, Nash D. Montgomery, RPM coordinator, Major Marcus Brooks, ChalleNGe Commandant, representatives from Home Depot, Cadet William Sherrod and Mark Chicoine, Director of ChalleNGe. (Contributed photo)

The Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy held a career fair Feb. 19, 2016, at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. Pictured are (left to right) Cadet Christian Roberts, Nash D. Montgomery, recruitment placement mentor coordinator, Major Marcus Brooks, ChalleNGe commandant, representatives from Home Depot, Cadet William Sherrod and Mark Chicoine, director of ChalleNGe. (Contributed photo)

CAMP PENDLETON , Va. –The Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy hosted a career fair Feb. 19, 2016, at the Virginia Beach Convention Center, as well as a parent workshop Feb. 19 and a mentor workshop Feb. 20 in Virginia Beach, Va.

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.

Twenty-five employers, including representatives from vocational schools and colleges, attended the job fair and several employers allowed cadets to complete job applications on the spot, according to Nash Montgomery, ChalleNGe recruitment placement mentor coordinator.

The Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy hosted a career fair Feb. 19, 2016, at the Virginia Beach Convention Center in Virginia Beach, Va. Twenty-five employers, including representatives from vocational schools and colleges, attended the job fair and several employers allowed cadets to complete job applications on the spot. (Contributed photo)

The Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy hosted a career fair Feb. 19, 2016, at the Virginia Beach Convention Center in Virginia Beach, Va. Twenty-five employers, including representatives from vocational schools and colleges, attended the job fair and several employers allowed cadets to complete job applications on the spot. (Contributed photo)

Some of the organizations attending the event were Americorps, Norfolk Naval Shipyard Apprenticeship Program, Home Depot, Military Sealift Command, ITT Technical Institute, Tidewater Community College, Navy Federal Credit Union and Old Dominion University.

Montgomery said they received many positive comments about the career fair from organization representatives as well as the cadets.

The parent workshop was designed to support parents of cadets who are transitioning to the post-residential phase of the program, according to Myron James, mentor coordinator for ChalleNGe. The workshop helps to give parents an idea of “what to expect” when the cadet returns home, according to James.

“In most cases graduating cadets have made positive behavioral changes that could be easily be redirected if the cadets reverts back to some negative influences in the community,” he said.

Guest speakers from various community agencies were invited to speak on the support they can provide to parents back in the communities.

The mentor workshop was similar to the parent workshop but focused more on cadet and mentor communications, mentor reporting requirements and role play, according to James. Thirty mentors attended and group sessions were guided to encourage mentors to share ideas on difficult issues that may arise during the post residential phase by the cadet. Mentors also shared ideas with the cadets in efforts to build the mentor/cadets relationship. The workshop concluded with the mentors having lunch with their cadets to discuss and make plans on mentor/cadet weekly contact and placement monitoring after the residential phase.

There are currently 106 cadets in Class 44 of the Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy and they are scheduled to graduate on March 5, 2016.

ChalleNGe 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.

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.