Hoyer believes second Challenge Academy is needed

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — At least one part of the Student Success Act is getting a big thumbs up from the state’s Adjutant General. General James Hoyer said adding a second location for the highly successful Mountaineer Challenge Academy would be a huge asset to the state.

Currently the Academy accepts students who are at risk of dropping out of school or who have problems which require a different level of attention and discipline. The program, based at Camp Dawson in Preston County, over the course of time has proven to be one that has been incredibly successful.  It uses a military style regimen to keep students on track to a high school diploma and a solid foundation for the future.

An education reform bill which won approval in the state Senate during the ongoing special session includes a provision to open up a second branch of the Challenge Academy in southern West Virginia. The location would likely be the former home of WVU Tech in Montgomery.

“The number of kids we’re graduating with high school diplomas in partnership with local high schools and county boards of education, we’re close to the equivalent of the 10th largest high school by volume of graduates in the state,” said Hoyer on MetroNews Talkline.

Each year the Challenge Academy graduates about 300 students using its 22 week program. But Hoyer believed with a second location they could double the number of grads.

“This next class coming up we have a minimum of 40 kids and we may have as many as 100 kids who are going to be on a waiting list and have to wait for the next program,” he said.

Hoyer doesn’t like the idea of waiting. He and officials with the Challenge Academy want to reach as many students as possible as soon as possible. The results, according to Hoyer, represent a valuable asset in the state and they are much needed services.

“If we could get to that number (600 graduates) in the state of West Virginia with a second Challenge Academy, think of the progress we could make as a state,” he said.

Location is a key attraction to the second operation as well. Many families don’t have the means often to accommodate travel to the Preston County location for various breaks or for orientation. A location in southern West Virginia could help with the ease of access.

Another reason Hoyer liked the idea is Camp Dawson is maxed out on accommodations. According to Hoyer they can’t make too much more of a commitment at Camp Dawson to the Challenge Academy without starting to infringe on the main mission of the Camp which is training National Guard soldiers for overseas missions. He also said the Challenge Academy is a partnership between a lot of agencies within state government, including the National Guard.

“The Guard runs this, but this requires everybody to participate,” he said.

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