CHARLESTON, WV – During his State of the State address on Wednesday, Gov. Jim Justice announced that his administration has secured $3.3 million, which the Governor will be including in his budget proposal, that would fund the establishment of a a second Mountaineer Challenge Academy (MCA) and Mountaineer Job Challenge Program (MJCP), utilizing part of the former WVU Tech campus in Montgomery.
“The work the National Guard has done with the Challenge Academy and the Job Challenge Program at Camp Dawson in Preston County is off the charts,” Gov. Justice said. “They’ve graduated 4,663 kids and the number of lives that have been changed for the better is absolutely amazing.
“This program has been so successful that we’ve now found the dollars, without increasing our budget, to be able to start a second Mountaineer Challenge Academy and Job Challenge Program in Montgomery.”
In October 2020, the southern campus will welcome its first free and voluntary class for at-risk youth ages 16-18 to train and mentor them to become contributing members of society in a quasi-military environment using the eight core components of academic excellence; physical fitness; leadership/followership; responsibility; citizenship; job skills; service to the community; health and hygiene; and life coping skills. The program length is 22-weeks in residence with a one year post-residential follow-up program.
Additionally, graduates of the MCA southern 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.
The newly established Department of Defense MJCP, which offers a follow-on 22-week program, will expand its current offering of specialized career and technical education to the southern campus as well. The program features three different trades with vocational or industry certification in health careers, manufacturing technology and pre-apprenticeship training for current and former MCA graduates.
“Since the inception of the Mountaineer Challenge Academy in West Virginia in 1993, this program has been changing the lives of at-risk youth in our state and it has served as a model of success around the Nation for states looking to implement the National Guard Challenge program,” said Maj. General James Hoyer, Adjutant General of the West Virginia National Guard. “With the success of our current program at Camp Dawson and the need to accommodate more at-risk youth with each new class, it is only fitting that we expand this highly successful program as soon as possible.
“Myself and the entire leadership team in the West Virginia National Guard and at the Mountaineer Challenge Academy are thankful for the support of Governor Justice and our state leaders in the Legislature who have supported this expansion and most importantly, the at-risk youth in West Virginia who will benefit greatly from a second location in southern West Virginia.”
The southern campus will occupy former WVU Tech’s Maclin Hall and the student union buildings and will also utilize the Baisi Athletic Center with the YMCA. This expansion of the Challenge Academy in West Virginia will employ an additional 85 personnel, with hiring expected to begin in early 2020.
The WVNG is currently assessing the facilities for any renovations required prior to occupancy for housing, classrooms, safety and security, and technology.
Since the program’s inception in 1993, more than 174,000 young people have completed the Challenge program nationwide, and 4,663 cadets have graduated in West Virginia at the current Camp Dawson campus, with 1,574 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.
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 MCJP host two classes per year. More details can be found at www.ngchallenge.org and at www.wvchallenge.org.