Who can attend?
The basic qualifications for acceptance into the program are:

  • Applicants must be between 16 and 18 years of age on the start date.  Cadets may turn 19 after starting the Program.
  • Educationally at-risk
  • Free of illegal drugs or illegally used drugs
  • Mentally stable and able to handle the stress of the program
  • Mentally capable of handling program academics
  • Physically capable of participating in physical training
  • Not currently under indictment or convicted of a felony offense
  • Volunteer to attend - no court order
  • A West Virginia Resident

Can applicants be court ordered?
No.  ChalleNGe is a volunteer program.  Challenge might be the best alternative the court can suggest.   Improvement Periods, Improvement Plans, Probation or assigned JPO's will not prevent an application from being accepted.

Is there a cost to the Cadet?
Parents are not required to pay tuition or other costs associated with the program. The course is free to those accepted, however some personal and clothing items may need to be purchased.  ChalleNGe is funded by the US Department of Defense and the State of West Virginia.

When do classes begin?
MCA operates 4 classes per year starting in January, April, July and October.   Applications are accepted year round and processed for the next available class.     A class starts together and graduates together.

When can I visit my Cadet?
There are no on-site visitations throughout the residential phase of the program; however, there are two scheduled weekends of mandatory leave for Cadets. Cadets are not permitted to stay at the Academy during leave weekends. Departure times are provided on the school calendar. Please note... they are NOT flexible.

What ways may I communicate with my Cadet?
Letters - It is important to write friendly and encouraging letters at least every week. Have brothers, sisters and any other family and friends write as well. Mail is delivered to Camp Dawson Monday-Friday. Mail is given out only on those days. The following mailing address should be used for your cadet:

NORTH (Preston County):                                  SOUTH (Fayette County):

Cadet (Last Name, First Name)                            Cadet (Last Name, First Name)
Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy                        Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy
PO Box 586                                                           PO Box 177
Kingwood  WV 26537                                            Montgomery  WV 25136

Telephone Calls - Cadets are not permitted to receive incoming calls on Academy phones. Phone calls are a privilege given to the Cadets and may be suspended for disciplinary reasons. They may begin during week three and are scheduled on a weekly basis.

The program is drug-free, but what if I'm taking a prescription medication?
Any type of illegal drug use is prohibited.  Medications directed by a physician, prescription and over the counter, must have the doctor's written order to be used while attending the Academy.  All medications are secured.  Medications do not prohibit you from attending the MCA.

What is the hardest part of the program?
The first few weeks at the Academy are the hardest. There are numerous changes:  your environment, your diet, your sleep, your physical condition, and your attitude! You're learning to share a room, your bay, with 20 other Cadets. You're learning to take two minute showers. You're under maximum stress with pressure to succeed. Once you learn the system, the weeks just fly. From Opening Day you are only 22 weeks from graduation!

What does an average day include?
The day starts at 0500 (that's 5AM).  Before breakfast Cadets do an hour of physical training followed by barracks maintenance. The morning and afternoon include a variety of classes. High School Equivalency Examination and Workplace Readiness Examination classes are both self-paced on the computer and traditional group instruction. There are classes in life coping, goal planning and job skills. The Cadre also have classes in areas such as land navigation, first aid and leadership. After class Cadets enjoy organized athletics and dinner.  The evening is spent preparing for the next day.

What do they do on weekends? 
Cadets have classes and recreational activities. There is an FTX (Field Training Exercise - camping) during each cycle.  Voluntary worship services are held on Sunday evening. Youth Fellowship is held on Wednesday evenings. Most of the Service to Community Projects are done on weekends. Cadets participate in parades, Adopt a Highway, Rails to Trails, American Red Cross Blood Drive and book fairs. You name it, MCA can do it.  Weekends are not down time.

Do the female Cadets have an easier program?
The program is consistent for all Cadets. You are required to show improvement in all 8 Core Components of training. The Academy provides separate living areas for male and female Cadets. Platoons and Educational Groups are co-ed. No romantic relationships are permitted or tolerated among the Cadets. (Female Cadets say it's harder for them because they have so many male Cadets to put up with!)

Do Cadets graduate with a credential?
ChalleNGe offers a high school diploma to students who qualify as part of the Option 1 Pathway.   ChalleNGe is recognized as a "special, alternative education program" by the WV State Department of Education, § 18-2-6, which allows teens to transfer into the program.  Diplomas are issued by the home high school and are presented at the MCA graduation.  In addition, a variety of training certifications are available.