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Michigan Teens Complete the Challenge of a Lifetime

Dec. 30, 2020 | By Webmaster
VIRIN: 201230-N-XZ300-0095

Story by Tech. Sgt. Anica Jankowski

Michigan National Guard

BATTLE CREEK, Mich.-- One hundred teenagers from across the state celebrated their early graduation from the Michigan Youth Challenge Academy just in time for the holidays. Their commitment to the grueling, quasi-military program resulted in 89 high school diplomas, one General Education Development certificate, and more than 2,500 hours of service to the community, despite the setbacks of COVID-19.

As the Michigan Youth Challenge Academy completes its twentieth year in operation, it remains free of cost to participants. Director Mike Gillum says the Challenge Programs provide invaluable life lessons to youth that result in a foundation for responsible and productive citizenship.

“We work to empower young people to regain control of their own futures by giving them the tools we all need to succeed,” said Gillum. “The emphasis is on accountability, integrity, and on reigniting a sense of hope and accomplishment. Our best measure of success is the quality of life of our graduates.”

The Michigan Youth Challenge Academy released its 43rd class of cadets who volunteered to attend the six-month, residential program that specializes in academic recovery, career preparation, and life coping skills. With a heavy influence from military structure and discipline, cadets normally spend 22 weeks recovering credits and excelling beyond what they ever thought possible.

This cycle, the threat of COVID-19 cancelled many enrichment activities normally scheduled for the class, which allowed the cadets to focus on core requirements to complete the program. Because of this dedication to meeting the standard, cadets were released on November 22, 2020.

Candidates for the Youth Challenge Academy are 16-18 years old and at risk of not graduating high school. Because of the voluntary nature of the program, applicants cannot be mandated to attend by parents or the justice system. The next class begins on January 17, 2021.

Graduates of the Youth Challenge Academy are eligible for the Job Challenge program if they are physically and mentally capable of participation. Job Challenge focuses on career preparation and continues to provide opportunities for academic accreditation.

Both the Michigan Youth Challenge Academy and the Michigan Job Challenge program are free of cost to participants. There is no requirement for military obligation. Call 800-372-0523 or visit for more information on the Michigan National Guard Challenge Programs