The West Virginia National Guard’s Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy graduated 153 students as a part of Class 49 December 15, 2017.

“Attending a Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy graduation is always an honor for me, as I am able to see young people in West Virginia overcoming obstacles and achieving great things in life, such as earning their degree or establishing a path toward advanced learning or technical training,” said Maj. Gen. James A. Hoyer, The Adjutant General of the West Virginia National Guard.  “One of the most important things we can do as a State is invest in our youth and ensure they have the tools necessary to be successful and productive members of society.  MCA does exactly that and I am proud of every Cadet who is graduating today.”

Class 49 had 153 cadets graduate with a high school diploma, a 79 percent graduation rate.   Of those graduating, 62 percent plan to join the workforce, 18 percent plan to join the military, 11 percent plan to attend a vocational/technical program and nine percent plan to go onto a four-year college program.

Represented from 35 different counties throughout the Mountain State, Kanawha County had the highest enrollment for the course with 27 cadets.

Throughout the 22-week program, cadets provided more than 9,500 hours of community service through 122 different projects, a recognized value of more than $230,000.

The mission of the Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy is to train and mentor selected at-risk youth to become contributing members of society using the Eight Core Components in a quasi-military environment during a 22-week residential and one year post-residential follow-up program.   It is a free volunteer program for West Virginia youth ages 16 to 18 years old who are educationally at risk.

Since its inception in 1993, the Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy has graduated 4,048 cadets from the program.

Award winners from the program are as follows:

Robert C. Byrd Distinguished Cadet Award – Cadet Jimmy McNeil – Charleston, Kanawha County, son of Myesha McNeil of Charleston.

Adjutant General’s Award for Academic Excellence – Cadet Jacob Picklesimer  – Prichard,  Wayne County, son of Daniel Picklesimer of Prichard and Debra Picklesimer of Indialantic, Fla.

Leadership Award:  Cadet Jimmy McNeil – Charleston, Kanawha County, son of Myesha McNeil of Charleston

Citizenship Award: Cadet Michael Burns – Foster, Wayne County, son of Rebecca Ford of Foster

Academic Challenge Award:  Cadet Michael Plumley – Shady Spring, Raleigh County, son of Sharon and William Bryson of Shady Spring

Most Improved Cadet Award:  Cadet Victoria Stokes – Nitro, Kanawha County, daughter of Amy Stokes and Paul Brown of Tornado and Turner Stokes of Augusta, Ga.

“Esprit de Corps” Award:  Cadet Jacob Picklesimer – Prichard, Wayne County, son of Daniel Pickesimer and Debra Picklesimer of Indialantic, Fla.

“Iron Mike” Award for Physical Fitness:  Cadet O’Neill Rivera – Morgantown, Monongalia County, son of Yaritza and Robert Ammons of Morgantown.