News and Events
Affiliate Chapter of FFA Starts at MCA
March 30, 2018
Located in the heart of Preston County, The Mountaineer Challenge Academy (MCA) is an alternative education program for the state of West Virginia. The MCA provides a safe, secure, and structured training environment for sixteen to eighteen year olds, males and females, who volunteer to improve their lives and want to enrich their future. Cadets at the MCA have the opportunity to earn their High School diploma from their home High School by completing the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program Career and Technical Education Pathway and passing the TASC. Selected youth attend the academy for twenty-two weeks during the residential phase of the program, followed up with a one-year long mentoring program. During the residential phase, Cadets have the option to choose from a variety of Career Exploration Courses such as College 101, ServSafe, Computer Coding, Manufacturing Technology, and Agriculture. These courses expose Cadets to the different career fields available upon graduation. One of the fastest growing courses is the Agricultural Program, led by MCA Instructor Mrs. Jessie Uphold.
Mrs. Uphold’s Agriculture class operates three high-tunnels throughout the year. The Cadets learn how to harvest, as well as how to start new seeds for the next growing season. They also learn how to prepare soil for planting transplants they started from seed and seedlings. Mrs. Uphold runs the Agriculture Program as if it were a job for the Cadets; She gives them instruction and guidance at the start, then they are responsible for all aspects of the high tunnel production, including watering, weeding, harvesting and temperature control. During the winter months, the high-tunnel production has a wide variety of greens. Lettuce, kale, spinach, Mache (also known as lambs lettuce or corn lettuce), collards, and Swiss chard are often found thriving alongside root vegetables such as beets, radishes, and carrots. During the summer production; tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, peas, beans, onions, as well as many others can be harvested by the Cadets.
Mrs. Uphold embarked on a new adventure with her Agriculture Program this spring, Sugar Maple Tree Tapping. With the help of another MCA employee, who taps Sugar Maples as a hobby, and coordination with Environmental teams on Camp Dawson, they gathered the equipment and supplies needed and identified seven Sugar Maples that could be tapped. From the seven trees the Cadets tapped, they were initially able to collect six, five-gallon buckets of sap. Since then, they have collected a total of twenty buckets, which has currently produced an estimated two gallons of Maple Syrup.
Through the hard work and dedication of Mrs. Uphold, the MCA is proud to announce that they now have their own affiliate chapter of the FFA (Future Farmers of America). The MCA FFA is the newest Chapter in West Virginia. The FFA provides additional leadership opportunities, support with public speaking, as well as help with job resumes for the Cadets. The Cadets are enthusiastic that they can be involved in the FFA while at the MCA. They feel that they have sense of belonging and that they are able to take pride in themselves and what they stand for.
The FFA also provides opportunities for the Cadets to participate in FFA competitions. In April, the MCA will have two teams of five Cadets traveling to Jackson’s Mill to compete in the Envirothon, which is a team based competition that addresses parts of the environment. At the competition, our teams will take four tests including Soils, Aquatics, Forestry, and Wildlife. They will also do a five to seven minute oral presentation on this year’s topic, Range Management. In May, the Cadets will be competing in two additional competitions: The Plant Pathology Career Development Event at WVU and the Entomology Career Development Event.
The Plant Pathology Career Development Event will involve one team of Cadets. During this event, Cadets will identify different plant diseases and treatments. The Cadets will test individually for a combined team score. Another team will compete in the Entomology Career Development Event, in which Cadets will identify different bugs and their control measures. The Cadets will also test individually for a combined team score in this event. As additional competitions arise, Cadets will be presented with as many opportunities as possible to show what they are capable of.
This is just the beginning of what is to come for Mrs. Uphold and her Agriculture Program. New opportunities are just over the horizon with goals of expanding, to the old KD Range area of Camp Dawson, which will give a larger area for horticulture. With expansion, the plan is to add another hoop house in addition to the three already on site. Mrs. Uphold will also be receiving an additional five bee hives in April, which will assist in pollination of everything being grown in the high-tunnels, outside, as well as produce honey. There are also plans on acquiring laying hens in the future, which will teach the Cadets to care for and raise livestock. Next year, there are hopes to continue and increase the production of Maple Syrup.
Agriculture Cadets: Micheal Dooley, Hunter Easterday, David Hall, John Hull, Torri Lambert (Secretary), Collin Lane (Treasurer), Jamie Miller, Chilindra Nichols, Clay Nuzum (Vice President), Dylan Parsons (Reporter), Ashley Pratt, Noah Reckart, Joshua Robinson (Chaplain), Kyle Rose (Sentinel), Preston Stalnaker, Jonathan Ward, Gabriel White, Cameron Workman (President)
Byrd Institute Partners with ChalleNGe Academy for Manufacturing Training
Preston County News - Preston Pride – February 19, 2016
First Lady announces big partnership between Mountaineer ChalleNge Academy, Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Central West Virginia
CHARLESTON — West Virginia First Lady Joanne Jaeger Tomblin spoke to a packed house in the Governor’s Reception Room at the state capital on Friday, Feb. 12 as part of a special partnership announcement between the Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy and Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of South Central West Virginia.
Dozens attending the announcement and reception which focused on the theme, Mentoring West Virginia; a private/public initiative with the West Virginia National Guard/ Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy (MCA) and Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) of South Central West Virginia.
“I had the pleasure today of commending Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy on their new partnership,” First Lady Tomblin said.
The partnership will allow BBBS and MCA to work closely with program graduates. The goal is to help develop today’s youth into tomorrow’s workforce. Mentoring West Virginia hopes to ensure a brighter future for our communities by providing productive citizens and responsible leaders.
The announcement was followed by a public signing of the memorandum of understanding. Those signatures included Joanne Tomblin, Sara McDowell, Executive Director BBBS of South Central WV, Brig. Gen. Paige Hunter, Chief of Joint Staff on behalf of General Hoyer and Kathy Tasker, Director Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy.
Since 1993, the Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy has successfully graduated 3,431 cadets from all 55 counties in West Virginia. The successful program is designed to give academically challenged teens an opportunity to complete their basic education. Cadets can earn a high school diploma from their home high school while attending MCA.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Central West Virginia was chartered in March of 1995 as a non-profit youth organization. Since its inception, they have been dedicated to assisting young people and at-risk youth, strengthening communities and promoting the importance of giving back to develop future leaders and a hand-up to those in need.
Thursday, May 7, 2015 - Service To Community, South Preston Elementary/Middle School
I have recently had the pleasure of working with several of the Cadets on the project at the South Preston School. They have all been instrumental in helping to erect the playground equipment for the students. Actually, without them, the task would have been very hard to complete. While all of the Cadets have been great, I would like to express my gratitude for one Cadet in particular. A few nights ago, we were back out to work on the playground and the task was given for several stakes to be driven into the ground. Some were an easy task, but others were very hard to seat due to rock layers in the ground and the task was physically exhausting and enduring. One individual, Cadet Larry Gaspers, endured the hardship and stayed working with some of us parents taking turns at seating the hardest part of the task. He was dedicated, determined, and persevered until the task was complete. His drive was unwavering and his will to continue on in the task never faded until it was complete. I have had the privilege of working with several people during my life and managed several as well. It is rare to find the quality of work and determination that I see in that young man. The work ethic that was visible in him will help to take him far in life if continually applied. I had to leave a little early and never got to express this to Cadet Gaspers. I would greatly appreciate it if you would pass this along to him. If he ever needs a reference for any future endeavors, please feel free to have him contact me.
Justin R. Wolfe
Preston County E-911/OEM
Sunday, April 5, 2015 - Easter Egg Coloring Contest Winners Class 1-15
Category Winners - Best of…
Easter Egg - Cadet Alexis McCartney
Easter Bunny (Head) - Cadet Hunter Davis
Easter Bunny (Full) - Cadet Michelle Garcia
Duck - Cadet Collin Parker
Easter Basket - Cadet Jason Braham
Easter Tree - Cadet Joshua Knotts
Overall Best Use of Color - Cadet Hunter Davis
Overall Best of Show - Cadet Alexis McCartney
Monday, March 9, 2015 - Charleston Daily Mail
Major General James A. Hoyer: Mountaineer Challenge Academy is a key to West Virginia’s future
Recently, many West Virginia leaders from all sectors have discussed how important two key factors are to West Virginia’s future success: everyone agrees that improving the high school graduation rate and increasing the work force participation rate are key. For the future of West Virginia dealing with these issues and our at risk youth population are vital.
At-risk youth are an important population who can benefit greatly when our society, schools and communities provide a variety of programs to help them succeed and change their lives. Many of the youth in our state face unfortunate circumstances at a critical time in their lives due to factors that may be either out of their control (such as a troubled home environment), due to educational under-achievement or are related to the epidemic of drugs.
One program in West Virginia that is doing its part to help hundreds of youth each year is the Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy. Started in 1993, the mission of the West Virginia Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy is to train and mentor selected at-risk youth to become contributing members of society. The program is funded by the National Guard and the state of West Virginia and uses eight Core Components in a quasi-military environment. The eight core components are:
1. Academic excellence
2. Life-coping skills
3. Job skills
4. Health and hygiene
5. Responsible citizenship
6. Service to community
8. Physical fitness
Quasi-military is a term used to describe the program because of its military style focus. It is rigorous and involves physical, educational and self-improvement activities. The cadets are subject to strict rules and abstinence from caffeine, junk food, sugars, sodas, nicotine and drugs. Every cadet is drug-tested as part of the initial selection process ... and no exceptions are made. Our structured environment also includes many aspects related to military training such as paying attention to detail, respect, self-discipline and a chain of command.
The youth who elect to apply to the academy do so on a voluntary basis and with the approval of a parent or guardian. However, the academy is not a juvenile detention facility. The cadet can leave at any time.
Once selected to the academy, the at-risk youth undergo a 22-week residential and educational program at Camp Dawson in Preston County. Following successful graduation, the cadets are provided a one-year follow-up post-residential program with a local mentor.
The classroom studies at the Academy are designed to enhance the cadet’s education skills and instill a desire to continue self-improvement throughout their lifetime. Studies include the five basic areas included on the General Educational Development (GED) certificate test: math, science, social studies, language arts and literature. PLATO is the software program used to enhance basic skills in addition to allowing for personal advancement. The Academy also uses the TABE (The Adult Basic Education) test which is a measure of performance which correlates to traditional secondary school grade levels. Approximately 17 weeks into the program, cadets take the GED equivalent examination and the Department of Labor Work Keys exam.
I am proud to say that Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy has had a great track record in having helped more than 3,000 West Virginians graduate from the program ... from every county in the state. Most of these students (81 percent) also have succeeded in earning their GED or obtaining a high school diploma. Moreover, the ChalleNGe Academy’s placement record is equally as impressive: 42 percent become employed, 17 percent go in military, 12 percent go back to their high schools, 17 percent go on to vocational training, and 11 percent go on to college. A number of our graduates also are qualifying for the State’s Promise Scholarship. In our December 2014 graduating class 16 percent are pursuing their college degree with the help of Promise Scholarships. In this same class 26 percent are receiving training at one of the state’s vocational schools, 24 percent have chosen military careers and the balance have entered the work force. This is a tremendous turnaround for youth who were on a path to drop out of high school…or worse.
In 2013, the Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy partnered with the Department of Education to qualify cadets for high school diplomas from their home high school. This caused an immediate spike in applications from at risk West Virginians. However, ChalleNGe has yet to meet its full potential to move our State forward.
West Virginia can’t afford to let these at risk youth slip through an opportunity for success. We as a State, in a public/private partnership must invest more in ChalleNGe to help insure our State’s future success! I am confident our West Virginia elected leaders, county school officials, business and civic leaders and others will come together in a “whole of community” approach to provide more at-risk youths with access to this “life-changing” program and propel our State forward. West Virginia has tremendous potential for future success and serving as a vital part of our nation’s future success. We have tremendous natural resources and wonderful people but we must invest in our most precious resource, our children! Governor Tomblin and I hope West Virginians will join the West Virginia National Guard in a public/private partnership to help our at risk youth achieve success and propel West Virginia to new heights.
Maj. Gen. James A. Hoyer is The Adjutant General for the West Virginia National Guard.
Governor's State of the State Address text regarding Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy from www.governor.wv.gov Jan 14, 2015
We are also strengthening the West Virginia National Guard's incredibly successful Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy. Since the Academy was established in 1993, nearly 3,000 teens have graduated and gone on to be positive influences in their communities. This December, 131 cadets graduated from the Academy.
Of the new graduates, 16 percent are pursuing their college degree with the help of PROMISE scholarships, 26 percent are receiving training at one of our state's vocational schools, 24 percent have chosen military careers and the rest have successfully completed training programs to enter our workforce.
The ChalleNGe Academy is making a difference in the lives of at-risk kids across the state. And tonight, we welcome two graduates whose experiences will inspire other young West Virginians to follow their lead.
After graduating from the Academy in 1999, Michael Ayersman joined the United States Army. After serving his country as a combat engineer and bomb technician, Michael returned home to serve his fellow West Virginians as a law enforcement officer. In 2013, he returned to the Academy - this time as a squad leader mentoring new cadets.
Just last month, Ryan Bass stood with his fellow cadets as a new graduate and member of the 43rd Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy class. Ryan plans to join the West Virginia National Guard and continue his education.
Michael and Ryan, please stand so we may congratulate you on your achievements.
Wednesday, February 18, 2015 - National Guard Youth Challenge Foundation
National Guard Youth Foundation Celebrates 10th Anniversary of ChalleNGe Champions Gala
Alexandria, VA – On Tuesday, February 24th, the National Guard Youth Foundation (NGYF) will celebrate the 10th anniversary of its ChalleNGe Champions Gala, which has been instrumental in raising millions of dollars over the past ten years to enable NGYF to help at-risk youth turn their lives around and continue a path of success through scholarship funds and workforce and skills development efforts. This year’s gala will celebrate the success of the Youth ChalleNGe Program, the program supported by the NGYF, by bringing together congressional and military leaders, the business community, alumni, graduating cadets and noted celebrities including country music star Randy Houser and NASCAR driver Tyler Reddick. FOX News’ Jon Scott will emcee the event.