July, 20 2018

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Wisconsin Based Challenge Academy Helps Troubled Teens

The Challenge Academy, a residential treatment program affiliated with the National Guard, might be confused as a boot camp for troubled youth, but it is hardly that.

What the Challenge Academy has Become

The academy, which grew out of the Badger Challenge in 1998, is a way for students between the ages of 16 and 19 to obtain their high school equivalency diploma and become a better citizen.

"We like to think we take the best elements of the military, the structure, the discipline, the recognition," said Dan Ciechanowski, the admissions coordinator for the Academy, "(We) use them to our advantage in order to provide them with a safe environment to go to school and finish their HSED."

Located in Fort McCoy, the Challenge Academy offers troubled teens who are thinking about dropping out of a school a chance to get their HSED and build their character along the way.

Troubled Teens Can't be Forced into the Program

But the Academy won't take students who are forced into the treatment program. The young men and women have to want to change themselves.

"A judge can't order them to come here. A school can't tell them to come here. Mom and dad can't tell them to come here," Ciechanowski said. "Mom and dad can encourage. A judge can encourage."

For 22 weeks, students stay on the Academy's grounds, where they work on nine core components: HSED, job skills, physical fitness, health, hygiene and nutrition, leadership, life-coping skills, responsible citizenship and community service.

Post Residential Care

When the 22 weeks are finished, the students, called cadets, move to a post-residential phase, where they work with a self-selected mentor for 12 months to ensure continuance on the path they've chosen.

Some students move on to more education after completing the program, while others move into the armed services or into local employment.

"They have to want to change some aspect of their life," said Keith Krueger, commandant of the cadets. "It starts externally, but the true commitment has to be internal."

Ciechanowski will be at the Stevens Point Area Senior High at 6 p.m. tonight to provide more information about the Challenge Academy. He will be joined with an area cadet who will soon finish his 22-week program this December.

Ivy Farguheson can be reached at 345-2249 or [email protected]

Related Articles:
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