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Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy South celebrates latest graduation class

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There are 57 new cadet graduates of the Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy.

Family and friends of cadets in the West Virginia National Guard’s Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy – South fourth class gathered Friday morning at Haddad Riverfront Park in Charleston to celebrate the completion of the MCA – South Class 1-2022/Cycle 58.

“It’s been a true blessing to see these kids go from week one to the 22 weeks, all the trials and tribulations they’ve gone through. To see them make it to today and graduate is amazing,” Paul Perdue, Program Manager Mountaineer Challenge Academy-South told MetroNews.

The class represented 22 counties including nine cadets from Marion County. 47 cadets passed their Hi-SET examination and earned a high school diploma.

The South academy opened its doors on October 11, 2020, in Montgomery. 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.

Perdue explained that the quasi-military environment instills discipline in the cadets as they wake up early to do physical training every day and have a regimented day.

“Every class has its trials and tribulations they go through. These guys are fighters, this class is a group of fighters. I think about that when I wrote my speech. They are the ones that stuck it out,” Perdue said.

According to the academy, 56% of graduates in this class are pursuing employment, 18% pursuing military, 18% headed to college, 11% are participating in Vo-Tech, HiSET, and 19% will be in the Mountaineer Job Challenge.

The graduation award winners included Damon Thompson from Beckley (Robert C. Byrd Distinguished Cadet Award), Trevor Davis from Martinsburg (Adjutant General’s Award for Excellence), Geralde Lewis from Beckley (Leadership Award), Shawn Holcomb from Elkview (Citizenship Award), Kaiden Lambert of Herndon (Academic Challenge Award), Haylee McCallister from Huntington (Most Improved Cadet Award), Micah Fedotoff from Fayetteville (‘Esprit De Corps’ Award), and LJ Allen from Mount Carbon and Makenzi Artist from Logan (‘Iron Mike and Iron Michelle Award’ for Physical Fitness).

Thompson was the Corps Commander and Platoon Leaders included Fedotoff (1st), Holcomb (2nd), Jamie Holcomb (3rd), Paul Volpe (4th), and Artist (5th).

WVNG Assistant Adjutant General – Air Brig. Gen. David “DC” Cochran and Perdue both gave speeches during the event.

The academy begins every April and October.

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