CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) – Gov. Jim Justice announced today that the West Virginia National Guard’s Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy South, located in Montgomery, has officially opened for its inaugural class of 72 cadets, representing 30 counties across the state.
MCA South is the second National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program to open in the West Virginia. It provides educational opportunities for at-risk youth, ages 16-18, in a 22-week quasi-military residential program focused on eight core components. In addition, the Mountaineer Job ChalleNGe Program is available on the campus for cadets or recent graduates who want to earn industry-recognized certifications in fields such as manufacturing, medical technician, pre-apprenticeship, energy sector, and more.
Additionally, graduates of the MCA South campus will be able to earn their high school diploma from their home high school through the pathways option approved by the West Virginia Department of Education.
“I couldn’t be prouder that just nine months after announcing in my State of the State address that we wanted to open a second Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy location to serve southern West Virginia, we are making it happen,” Gov. Justice said. “The work the National Guard does with the MCA and the Job Challenge Program at Camp Dawson is off-the-charts. The opportunities they provide have truly changed thousands of young lives for the better. Why wouldn’t we want to replicate this amazing program? Not to mention that we were able to find the dollars to do it without increasing our budget. This is a tremendous day for West Virginia.”
The Southern campus will occupy the former WVU Tech’s Maclin Hall and the Student Union buildings and will also utilize the Baisi Athletic Center. Updates to the campus have been completed by the architectural firm ZMM from Charleston and general contracting by Maynard C. Smith of Charleston.
In order to support operations at MCA South, more than 60 jobs have returned to the Upper Kanawha Valley with salary ranges from $35,000 to more than $70,000.
“Not only is the new ChalleNGe Academy location going to provide opportunities for our kids to thrive, it’s also going to bring a much-needed economic boost to this area of our state and the multiplier effect will be felt all across Kanawha County,” Gov. Justice said.
Final approval for the expansion from the National Guard Bureau’s Youth ChalleNGe Program and Job ChalleNGe Program was granted on Feb. 27, 2020. Gov. Justice signed legislation on March 12, 2020 that allocated funding for the expansion of the ChalleNGe Academy in West Virginia.
“Despite the challenges we have faced with responding to a worldwide pandemic and working to open the ChalleNGe Academy in Montgomery, we know that the most important work we could do as a state was to establish this second ChalleNGe Academy in Montgomery,” said Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, Adjutant General of the WVNG. “There remains a significant need to meet the educational demands for at-risk youth in West Virginia, particularly in the southern part of the state, and we are thankful for the work that has taken place thus far. I am particularly grateful for the support of Governor Justice and our legislators, and for the invaluable work of the mayors of Montgomery and Smithers to bring this project to fruition.
“None of this would have been possible without the support of our congressional delegation – Senators Manchin and Capito and Congressman McKinley – who, in a bi-partisan fashion, advocated for additional capacity in West Virginia through securing federal funds and leading the ChalleNGe Caucus in Congress that has helped to grow the program,” Hoyer continued.
“Since 1993, the Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy has provided many at-risk teens the opportunity to learn and grow while becoming contributing members of their communities. Today, we celebrate the opening of the second ChalleNGE Academcy location in Montgomery. As the Academy expands, I know the core program values will make this second location a success. I am incredibly proud of the Academy, the West Virginia National Guard, and everyone who has worked to make this program thrive,” said Senator Joe Manchin.
“The Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy has been such a success in our state and it is fantastic news that the southern campus in Montgomery is opening its doors to their inaugural class,” said Senator Capito. “The academy provides an essential service to our youth, and gives them a platform and pathway to success that they would not have otherwise had. Even throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Guard has stood tough and been there to support their cadets in these challenging and unprecedented times. I want to extend my thanks to the National Guard and community leaders in Montgomery for making this possible, and wish the best of luck to the inaugural class of cadets beginning their journey here. West Virginia is a state full of wonder and opportunity, and will remain that way because of institutions like the Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy.”
“The Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy has made a difference in the lives of thousands of young West Virginians,” said Rep. David McKinley. “Over the years I’ve met many of these young men and women and heard the stories of how the Youth ChalleNGe program has helped them turn their life around. Expanding to a second location will reach many more at-risk kids across West Virginia. We will continue to use our role as the co-chair of the Congressional Youth ChalleNGe Caucus to support MCA’s mission and ensure their success.”
Since the program’s inception in 1993, more than 185,000 young people have completed the ChalleNGe program nationwide, and 4,663 cadets have graduated in West Virginia at the current Camp Dawson campus, with 1,704 earning their high school diploma.
This award-winning program has been recognized as one of the nation’s most effective and cost-efficient programs for targeting educationally at-risk youth and is the recipient of the 2018 West Virginia Education Alliance exemplary partnership award for student-centered support and the 2020 National Guard Youth Foundation’s Program of the Year.
The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program currently operates 41 sites in 30 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia. The program is both federally and state funded and MCA and Mountaineer Job ChalleNGe Program host two classes per year. More details can be found at www.ngchallenge.org and at www.wvchallenge.org.