Story by Maj. Cindi King, S.C. National Guard Public Affairs
Photo by Sgt. Brad Mincey, 108th Public Affairs Detachment
EASTOVER, S.C. – Over 900 family and friends joined the newest graduating class from the S.C. National Guard’s Youth Challenge Academy at a ceremony held June 11 at the McCrady Training Center, Eastover, South Carolina.
The 69 cadets, who began the program in January 2014, marched in succession to start the ceremony wearing traditional blue and gold caps and gowns. Many in the crowd waved signs and held balloons to celebrate the accomplishments of cadets graduating from the program.
The official party, including Brig. Gen. Van McCarty, the deputy adjutant general for the S.C. National Guard and Col. Jackie Fogle, commander of the Youth Challenge Academy, welcomed everyone attending.
Scholarships were presented to cadets for outstanding performance, as well as awards for most improved cadet, high physical training scores, and high academic achievement.
One of the highlights was the keynote speaker, Cadet Joseph Bennett, who spoke of his experience in the program.
“I would like to give a special thanks to my parents, because they never stopped believing in me and for all the second chances they gave me,” said Bennett. “To my fellow cadets, remember what brought you here and remember that you came here to change your ways.”
Bennett noted they all would be going back to the same environment they left with the same temptations and influences that got them in bad situations.
“Remember this, we are still going to mess up. Life is full of mistakes, but the key to success is learning from your mistakes,” said Bennett. “Make your mistakes work for you and never give up on yourself.”
A special scholarship was presented by the senior Army adviser, Col. Thomas Kelly, on behalf of the Leadership South Carolina Class of 2014 “Readers2Leaders” project. Annie Revere, an English teacher at SCNG YCA, was presented a scholarship valued at over $6,000 to further her studies in reading education.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the cadets were instructed to rise and be recognized by the crowd. The room erupted in thunderous applause and cheers.
The mission of the SC Youth Challenge Academy is to reclaim the lives of 16- to 18-year-old high school dropouts, and provide them the values, skills, education and self discipline necessary to succeed as adults.
For additional information about the S.C. Youth Challenge Academy, please visit their website at www.scyouthchallenge.com.