News and Events

Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy South Guinness Book of World Records Title Holder - April 11, 2023

Congratulations to our recently graduated cadets, Class 2-2022 South, for being recognized for your participation in the Guinness Book of World Records title of largest packaged food word consisting of 25,550 canned food items in partnership with the Mountain Mission, Inc.


Mountaineer Job Challenge Program Applies For The Purple Star Award - 02/14/2022

The Purple Star Award is a designation assigned to schools which display a special commitment to supporting military children and their families. Common Ground Partners review applications and the West Virginia Department of Education issues awards to schools meeting the award’s eligibility criteria. Schools receiving the award are issued an official certificate and additional electronic materials which may be used to pridefully display their status as a military-friendly school throughout the building. This award contributes to our partnership‘s efforts to build strong bonds between schools, military service members, and community organizations which meet the specialized needs of our children and enhance the success of all students. For more information about Common Ground and the Purple Star Award, visit Common Ground - West Virginia Department of Education (



Mountaineer Challenge Academy to graduate 5,000th Cadet

By Chris Lawrence November 19, 2021 - 11:24 am

KINGWOOD, W.Va. — The Mountaineer Challenge Academy will graduate its 5,000th cadet in the program’s 57th graduation ceremony at the operation in Kingwood. Founded in 1993, the milestone comes after the program to help struggling teenagers has evolved through the years.  “We started off as just a G.E.D. program, but through the years we’ve been able to build partnerships with the Department of Education and our students can actually earn a high school diploma from their home high school,” said Mountaineer Challenge Academy Director Dianna Trickett.  Ninety-one percent of the graduates Friday will leave with a high school diploma. They will also leave with a direction.  “Every kid has a plan for what they are going to do after graduation and we track them for that first year to make sure they apply the lessons they learned here in the real world,” she said.

The need for places like the Mountaineer Challenge Academy has grown with Covid. Trickett said they have been able to remain operational and limit the amount of contact students have in the closed campus environment and through their living quarters. According to Trickett, the quasi-military environment and rigid discipline is the kind of structure many of the students needed.  She doesn’t like to call it a “last chance”, but admits for many who end up there, their families look at it that way.  “We do have many families and many kids who feel we are their last chance. They’ve tried everything else and nothing has really been successful. Therefore, they’re really putting a lot of hope into the program,” Trickett explained.  It’s a reality which makes graduation day all the more special to families and students who may have thought at one time they would never get there.  Suddenly life has taken a positive turn and there is hope.

An average of 20 percent of the Academy graduates wind up joining the military. About 15 percent of the fall 2021 class will go to armed service and of those six will join the West Virginia National Guard.  “We’re just excited we’ve been able to service so many kids in the state of West Virginia. Today is definitely a big milestone for us with that five thousandth graduate walking across the stage,’ Trickett said.

Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy Graduates South Class

By MetroNews Staff September 10, 2021 - 12:40 pmCadets Class 1-2021 of the West Virginia National Guard’s Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy South.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — 58 cadets walked across the stage Friday morning at Haddad Riverfront Park in Charleston as a part of graduating Class 1-2021 of the West Virginia National Guard’s Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy South.

Many people were emotional including friends, family and the cadets themselves. Paul Perdue, the Director of Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy South was also emotional as he gave his speech. He noticed how much the cadets have changed from day one and in a good way.

“You see the poor posture, you see the eye contact diverted away. Then as you watch time go on and the 22 weeks go by, at graduation day you can see the pride they have for themselves and the self-esteem they carry with them. That is an amazing process to watch take place,” Perdue told MetroNews flagship 580-WCHS afterward.

Class 1-2021 boasted a 93 percent graduation rate for its cadets, meaning 54 of the 58 earned their high school diploma. Of those graduating, 24 percent (14 cadets) plan to join the workforce, 36 percent (21 cadets) plan to join the military, 14 percent (8 cadets) plan to attend a vocational/technical program and 12 percent (7 cadets) plan to go onto a four-year college program, a release stated. Fourteen percent of the class (8 cadets) plan to participate in the Mountaineer Job ChalleNGe Program after graduation.

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.

It is a free volunteer program for West Virginia youth ages 16 to 18 years old who are educationally at-risk.

Class 1-2021 represents 28 different counties throughout the Mountain State, with Kanawha County having the highest enrollment for the course with 15 cadets. Throughout the 22-week program, cadets provided more than 2,954 hours of community service through 42 different projects, a recognized value of more than $84,292.89.

Brig. Gen. William Crane, Adjutant General of West Virginia National Guard said he is proud of the at-risk kids for turning their lives around.

“All of us have taken a turn at some point in our lives that may not have been the best turn. This is the great program to help them to make the right turn and go down the right path,” Crane said.

Award winners from the program are as follows:


Cadet William Farkas

Tunnelton, Preston County

Son of Gerald and Rhonda Farkas



Cadet William Farkas

Tunnelton, Preston County

Son of Gerald and Rhonda Farkas



Cadet Mason French

Tornado, Lincoln County

Son of Jessica Mattox and Derron French



Cadet Navaeh Asbury

Saint Albans, Kanawha County

Daughter of Richard and Jessica Asbury



Cadet Brooklyn Parker

Saint Albans, Kanawha County

Daughter of Seth and Melissa Parker



Cadet Samuel Wheeler

Hinton, Summers County

Son of Harold and Sherri Wheeler


Cadet William Farkas

Tunnelton, Preston County

Son of Gerald and Rhonda Farkas



Cadet William Farkas

Tunnelton, Preston County

Son of Gerald and Rhonda Farkas


Cadet Samantha Hammons

Marlinton, Pocahontas County

Daughter of Roy Hammons

MCA South moves toward October opening

MONTGOMERY — Life is being breathed into portions of the former WVU Tech.

Work is ongoing on converting Maclin Hall and the Tech Center to host Mountaineer Challenge Academy South, a program of the West Virginia National Guard, beginning this fall. MCA South is slated to receive its first class of cadets on Oct. 11, 2020. Thereafter, the academy will be on a regular schedule of two classes a year every April and October, according to Deputy Director Debi Gipson."

As a lifelong resident of the Montgomery area, I cannot express how excited I am to see this wonderful program come to our area," Gipson said. "After seeing WVU Tech, Valley High School and the YMCA leave our area, it feels good to see something actually starting here."

I think we will see this academy grow, and it will be something our town can be proud of and be known for. In a few short months we will see the old Tech campus come to life with marching and cadences and I hope it brings a smile when you get to see it.

"MCA South plans to graduate 100 students twice a year. Each class is a 22-week residential program, during which the cadets can receive their high school diploma in a quasi-military atmosphere. That will be followed with a 12-month post-residential phase, which prepares cadets to return to their community.

Construction in recent weeks has centered on reconfiguring the Tech Center for use for the MCA program, Gipson said."  The majority of the construction process has been on the Tech Center," said Gipson. "Classrooms and computer labs have been added where the bookstore was located, as well as on the bottom floor in the old recreation space.  "Fortunately for us, the Bears Den was in great shape and did not need renovated, and will be used as our DFAC (dining) area. Maclin Hall is our other building, which will house our logistics department, administrative offices, as well as cadet sleeping rooms."

"As of right now these are the only two buildings we have, but hope to be able to obtain some sort of partnership that includes the Baisi Center," Gipson continued. "This is a much needed building for us considering the gym floor would be a great asset to obtain for purposes of physical training exercises."  As he was about to embark on his second term earlier this summer, Montgomery Mayor Greg Ingram said the city has been in discussions to possibly take over the Baisi Center and work with MCA to allow the academy to participate in its physical training while also using the building for community activities." Of course, the YMCA left Montgomery, so the city is now looking into taking the Baisi Center and making it a community building and working in coordination the Challenge Academy, because they want to lease part of the building for exercise and things at 0530 in the morning, and I don't think that's gonna compete with anything the community wants," Ingram said.  West Virginia University still owns the Baisi Center. Travis Mollohan, director of state and local relations for WVU, said the university is working with the National Guard and the City of Montgomery to create a plan for a community and recreational facility. Nothing has been finalized at this time.

The Mountaineer Challenge Academy leases Maclin Hall and Tech Center from WVU. "However, we are planning to transfer ownership of those buildings to them by Oct. 1," Mollohan wrote in an email. That will ultimately depend on when the Board of Public Works can review and approve the transfer, he said.

A job fair for the academy was held on Aug. 20 at Vining Library, with emphasis geared toward locating qualified applicants for positions such as management information specialist, trade specialist, administrative clerk and counselor.  The academy will employ 58 people. Thirty-one positions have been filled as of last weekend, Gipson said. "The job fair was a success, with 95 interested applicants coming in for various jobs," she said. "We are still conducting interviews as well as still seeking interested applicants.  "The main area that needs addressed at this point is for squad leaders. These individuals are highly important for the day-to-day supervision of our cadets. Due to the fact that we have male and female cadets, we need an increase in female applicants for this particular job. "According to Gipson, MCA South has employed its own teachers who will instruct students along with cadre members in order to guide them through the eight core components of the Mountaineer Challenge Academy program. Those components are: academic excellence, life coping skills, job skills, health and hygiene, responsible citizenship, service to community, leadership/followership and physical fitness. Upon passing the TASC test, cadets will receive their high school diploma from their home school.

A typical day for a cadet begins at 5 a.m., Gipson said. Cadets typically do an hour of physical training followed by barracks maintenance. The morning and afternoon will 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. These 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.

During his State of the State address in January, Gov. Jim Justice revealed his administration had secured $3.3 million for the establishment of the second Mountaineer Challenge Academy, which targets at-risk youth ages 16-18. MCA North is located in Kingwood. Its first cadet class was in 1994.On Monday, Gipson said MCA officials are discussing possible plans depending on the prevalence of Covid-19 as arrival time of the first class draws closer. "We are actually in the process of addressing those issues in accordance with the health department and the National Guard," she said in an email. "In March when the governor closed schools, MCA North sent their cadets home. It is a possibility there could be a delay in opening due to Covid concerns; however, we have not received any official word at this point."

Closing West Virginia’s Skills Gap - July 29, 2020

Posted In:  WV Executive Magazine Spring/Summer 2020 By Kristen Uppercue

In response to the call to diversify West Virginia’s economy, many programs have been created over the past several years to train Mountain State residents to work in new industries. With the coronavirus outbreak and the impact it has had on the economy, local businesses and employment rates, these training programs have never been more important. At the onset of the statewide shutdown in March, West Virginia faced more than 90,000 unemployment claims, and that number increased as businesses temporarily halted operations or closed for good due to the pandemic. This shift in available jobs could leave many people looking for new career opportunities.

The Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy, Robert C. Byrd Institute and West Virginia Department of Education are persevering through the pandemic, working with companies throughout the state and the region to help fulfill workforce needs and equip citizens with proper training, certifications, jobs and internships in their chosen industries.

Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy
The Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy (MCA), a West Virginia National Guard-sponsored program that works with teens at risk of not graduating, plans to open its second campus in Southern West Virginia in October. The facility will be located on the former West Virginia University Institute of Technology campus in Montgomery and will serve as the 42nd National Guard Youth Challenge Program in the U.S.

Operations of the two campuses will be similar, despite the Kingwood campus—now called MCA North—being positioned on a National Guard base and MCA South being located on a former college campus. MCA North’s classes will run on a January-July cycle while MCA South will run on an April-October cycle

“At MCA North, available facilities limited the opportunity to expand,” says Bob Morris, state director of the MCA. “A second location will help more West Virginia teens and will allow the academy to better serve students south of Route 60. From a workforce standpoint, MCA South will provide quality state jobs in an area that has been hard hit.”

The MCA consists of a 22-week residential phase and a one-year post-residential phase, allowing program graduates to work with a volunteer mentor. An optional 22-week Mountaineer Job ChalleNGe Program (MJCP) is offered to graduates looking for specialized training in manufacturing technology and energy, pre-apprenticeships with building trades and health care specializations in phlebotomy.

“The MCA and the MJCP both serve an integral role in developing West Virginia’s workforce, and both programs adhere to eight core components: education excellence, citizen­ship, life coping skills, leadership and fellowship, job skills, health and hygiene, physical training and service to community,” says Morris. “By following these components, the academy
focuses on the whole person.”

The MCA is planning to graduate 300 cadets from its Kingwood facility and 200 cadets from its Montgomery facility every year. Currently, 85 percent of academy graduates earn their high school diplomas while in residence.

In February, the MCA was recognized as the National Guard Youth Foundation Program of the Year. Shortly after, the MCA transitioned its training to take place online in response to the pandemic. In May, cadets were given the opportunity to either continue the program online, returning to the academy for one day of testing, or come back for the next start date as new cadets.

Sunday, July 19, 2020 - A parent of a current Cadet shares her thoughts on Facebook regarding Class 1-20/2-20 and the Staff of MCA:

“That’s wonderful that so many wanted to come back, already knowing how tough it is!  I believe that speaks very highly of MCA and its staff.  These kids, who tend to struggle with authority much more so than their local high school peers, can obviously feel the love and commitment of everyone there!  A GIANT thanks goes out to every staff member and support staff member there and to their families for supporting them in going back to work.  Please know how grateful we parents are to all of you!  We couldn’t do this part of our journey without you!!”



Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy Stays On Track Despite Virus

By Maj. Holli Nelson | West Virginia National Guard June 5, 2020

KINGWOOD, WV – As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to maintain its grip on the United States, the Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy (MCA) has developed innovative ways to ensure at-risk youth can continue the course and, for some, earn their high school diploma.West Virginia was one of the last states in the nation to announce its first case of COVID-19. As cases were reported and schools were shut down across the state, it was evident that the MCA would need to send its cohort of cadets home to finish their education.On March 21, Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, the adjutant general of the West Virginia National Guard (WVNG), made the difficult decision to shutter the academy until it was safe to bring students back.Traditionally, cadets go through a five-month residential phase at Camp Dawson. With the pandemic altering educational paths throughout the nation, it was imperative that a plan was in place to ensure their education could continue without interruption, said Dianna Trickett, program director for the MCA.

“Immediately, we started online education curriculum through various platforms and also created a private Facebook group where cadets could connect and share information with one another and their parents or guardians,” she said.

ChalleNGe Academy teachers held education sessions three times a day during the week. Also, each cadet was assigned an MCA staff member who made daily contact to assess any needs – whether that be educational, physical or emotional.

Upon their departure from Camp Dawson, each cadet was given options. They could continue with online education and return in June to complete testing for the program, discontinue the online education and return to MCA in a future class, or discontinue online education and remove themselves from the program. Of the 157 cadets who started the program in January, 108 chose to remain in the program and continue with testing, 41 chose to return in a future class and eight left.

“We have all but a few cadets who have chosen to continue on in the program,” Hoyer noted. “I think it’s a great testament to our staff and faculty. It is exceptionally important that we continue to support these young folks, as they have put in so much work during this unprecedented time to complete the ChalleNGe Academy and earn their diploma. I couldn’t be more proud of these young men and women.”

This week, the WVNG has been working with MCA staff and cadets to ensure they are prepared to take their end-of-course exam in a safe manner consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. COVID-19 testing is ongoing for the 100 cadets who met all the requirements to be eligible to return for their final test.

“I didn’t want to go home because I was so used to the routine [at MCA],” said Analisa Wood, a cadet from Dunbar who aspires to join the Marine Corps. “I was excited to be able to return, take my test and have the chance to earn my diploma. I have had so many opportunities [at MCA] that I wouldn’t have gotten if I would have stayed in a regular high school, and I’m thankful for that.”

All staff and cadre who are assisting in the exam were tested beginning May 29, using the WVNG’s mobile testing lab that can deliver results in 15 minutes. The mobile testing unit went to designated locations across the state where cadets were tested. Once cleared with a negative result, they will be transported to Camp Dawson.

Beginning in October, the MCA is expanding into its second location in Montgomery, where an additional 200 cadets can attend a National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program. Currently, MCA North graduates approximately 300 cadets each year, with around 85% earning their high school diploma through the program.

MCA helps to redirect the lives of teens who have fallen behind in the traditional education system. With graduates from all 55 counties, MCA offers a safe, structured training environment for volunteer youth who strive to improve their lives.

Since its inception in 1993, the MCA has graduated 4,663 cadets from the program, with 1,704 earning their high school diploma through the West Virginia Department of Education Options Pathway Program.

Program of the Year

        Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy honored as National Guard Youth Foundation’s              Program of the Year
By By Edwin Wriston, West Virginia National Guard Public Affairs Office | Feb. 6, 2020

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Governor Jim Justice has been notified that the West Virginia National Guard’s Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy has been named as the National Guard Youth Foundation’s Program of the Year for 2019.

The National Guard Youth Foundation (NGYF), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, advocates for ChalleNGe programs throughout the United States and provides resources to the programs and its graduates to ensure a pathway to success.

“The MCA has truly changed the lives of so many kids over the years, it’s absolutely amazing, and I’m so proud that such a deserving program has been given this national honor,” Governor Justice stated. “I’ve said for a long time that our children are the greatest treasures we have in West Virginia and the leg-up the ChalleNGe Academy gives our kids is off the charts.”

Launched in 1993, the mission of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program (NGYCP) is to intervene in and reclaim the lives of at-risk youth to produce program graduates with the values, skills, education and self-discipline necessary to succeed as adults. Since its inception, the ChalleNGe program has grown to include 41 programs in 30 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C., and has impacted the lives of more than 185,000 youth.

The West Virginia MCA was one of the original 10 founding NGYCP programs, and since 1993 has graduated 4,663 cadets.

“I am so proud to hear that the MCA has been named the 2019 Program of the Year by the National Guard Foundation,” stated Senator Joe Manchin. “Every year, the MCA takes in at-risk youth and helps prepare them to become strong, contributing members of our society. I’m excited to see the MCA being recognized for its hard work for the state of West Virginia and out youth and look forward to seeing the future work of such an exemplary institution.”

Sentiments also shared by Senator Shelley Moore-Capito.

“I am thrilled the MCA has been named the NGYF’s Program of the Year,” she said. “I have long been a supporter of the MCA because of the lasting impact and countless opportunities it creates for our youth. This program has continuously provided the chance for young men and women of our state to finish their basic education and gain the skills necessary to become contributing members of our communities. Congratulations again to the MCA on this well-deserved honor.”

The NGYCP is a 17-month voluntary program for 16 to 18-year-old at-risk youth who have fallen behind in traditional education systems, consisting of a 22-week residential course and a one-year follow-up. The quasi-military residential course provides cadets with a safe, secure and structured learning environment, as well as hands-on career training programs. Students engage in a curriculum built around eight core components: academic excellence, life coping skills, job skills, health and hygiene, responsible citizenship, service to the community, leadership/followership, and physical fitness. A one-year post-residential follow-up program is included in the curriculum to facilitate long-term student success.

During the 22-week residential phase of MCA, cadets have the opportunity to earn a high school diploma, or a General Education Diploma (GED). Beginning in 2013, 1,704 cadets at the MCA have been able to earn their diploma through the West Virginia Department of Education Options Pathway Program.

“This is a much-deserved recognition for the MCA,” said Congressman David McKinley, a long-time supporter. “The MCA has done great work in helping at-risk young people and giving them a brighter future. We are proud of their work and their success and will continue to use our role as the co-chair of the Congressional Youth ChalleNGe Caucus to support their mission.”

A second MCA campus is scheduled to open in southern West Virginia later in 2020, Located in Montgomery, Fayette County. With the addition of the second campus, the MCA program will be able to double the number of courses offered per year and the number of students it can enroll having an even greater reach and positive impact for the state.

“The MCA is an example of what can be accomplished when community and government leaders develop lasting partnerships focused on reaching at-risk youth," said Adjutant General Maj. Gen. James Hoyer. "Our ChalleNGe Academy continues to set the precedent across the Nation as a model institution centered on student success. This award recognizes the dedicated work all our staff and leaders put into making the MCA the very best for our kids and for our state, and I couldn’t be prouder.”

The MCA has been recognized as one of the nation’s most effective and cost-efficient programs for targeting educationally at-risk youth and received the exemplary partnership award for student-centered support from The Education Alliance during the 2018 West Virginia Education Summit.

Honorees for the NGYF Program of the Year will be formally recognized during the 2020 ChalleNGe Champions Recognition Event at the Russell Senate Building in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 10.

To learn more about the Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy, go to:

To learn more about the NGYF’s mission and initiatives, please visit

Gov. Justice announces that second Mountaineer Challenge Academy will open in Montgomery 1/10/2020 Jordan Damron,


CHARLESTON, WV – During his State of the State address on Wednesday, Gov. Jim Justice announced that his administration has secured $3.3 million, which the Governor will be including in his budget proposal, that would fund the establishment of a a second Mountaineer Challenge Academy (MCA) and Mountaineer Job Challenge Program (MJCP), utilizing part of the former WVU Tech campus in Montgomery.
“The work the National Guard has done with the Challenge Academy and the Job Challenge Program at Camp Dawson in Preston County is off the charts,” Gov. Justice said. “They’ve graduated 4,663 kids and the number of lives that have been changed for the better is absolutely amazing.
“This program has been so successful that we’ve now found the dollars, without increasing our budget, to be able to start a second Mountaineer Challenge Academy and Job Challenge Program in Montgomery.”
In October 2020, the southern campus will welcome its first free and voluntary class for at-risk youth ages 16-18 to train and mentor them to become contributing members of society in a quasi-military environment using the eight core components of academic excellence; physical fitness; leadership/followership; responsibility; citizenship; job skills; service to the community; health and hygiene; and life coping skills. The program length is 22-weeks in residence with a one year post-residential follow-up program.
Additionally, graduates of the MCA southern campus will be able to earn their high school diploma from their home high school through the pathways option approved by the West Virginia Department of Education.
The newly established Department of Defense MJCP, which offers a follow-on 22-week program, will expand its current offering of specialized career and technical education to the southern campus as well. The program features three different trades with vocational or industry certification in health careers, manufacturing technology and pre-apprenticeship training for current and former MCA graduates.
“Since the inception of the Mountaineer Challenge Academy in West Virginia in 1993, this program has been changing the lives of at-risk youth in our state and it has served as a model of success around the Nation for states looking to implement the National Guard Challenge program,” said Maj. General James Hoyer, Adjutant General of the West Virginia National Guard. “With the success of our current program at Camp Dawson and the need to accommodate more at-risk youth with each new class, it is only fitting that we expand this highly successful program as soon as possible.
“Myself and the entire leadership team in the West Virginia National Guard and at the Mountaineer Challenge Academy are thankful for the support of Governor Justice and our state leaders in the Legislature who have supported this expansion and most importantly, the at-risk youth in West Virginia who will benefit greatly from a second location in southern West Virginia.”
The southern campus will occupy former WVU Tech’s Maclin Hall and the student union buildings and will also utilize the Baisi Athletic Center with the YMCA. This expansion of the Challenge Academy in West Virginia will employ an additional 85 personnel, with hiring expected to begin in early 2020.
The WVNG is currently assessing the facilities for any renovations required prior to occupancy for housing, classrooms, safety and security, and technology.
Since the program’s inception in 1993, more than 174,000 young people have completed the Challenge program nationwide, and 4,663 cadets have graduated in West Virginia at the current Camp Dawson campus, with 1,574 earning their high school diploma. This award-winning program has been recognized as one of the nation’s most effective and cost-efficient programs for targeting educationally at-risk youth.
The National Guard Youth Challenge Program currently operates 41 sites in 30 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. The program is both federally and state funded and MCA and MCJP host two classes per year. More details can be found at and at

The Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy (MCA) hosted MG James Hoyer, Secretary James N. Stewart -  Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs and Mike O’Toole – Director of Civil-Military Programs on Wednesday, December 4th.   While on site, the MCA provided the guests with a briefing on the MCA and Mountaineer Job ChalleNGe Program, a tour of both Program’s facilities along with the Corps of Cadets being addressed by MG Hoyer and Secretary Stewart.

Mountaineer Job ChalleNGe Program


The New Job ChalleNGe program will be starting this coming July.

This program is for past Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy graduates only.

The program is a 22-week residential program which will follow the same standard as the Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy.

Must be 17 ½ - 20 years of age to be accepted.

This program will offer the following certifications:

Phlebotomy and ECG certification

RCBI Machinist (CNC Operators) Certification

Pre-Apprenticeship Program- Exploring different sides of Construction Careers

For More information please Contact:  Angela McDougal, Career Manager at 304-435-5231

BRUCETON MILLS — A benefit Saturday for four Bruceton Mills boys involved in an auto accident raised $49,794 — and counting.


More than 1,000 meals were sold at the benefit, said Mandi Hall, one of the organizers of the Boys of Bruceton Benefit. And some people who came chose not to eat, so more than that attended.


More than 100 people of all ages volunteered to help with the event. They ranged from Preston County Senior Citizens members to Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy Cadets.

“I can’t tell you how many compliments we had on how respectful and how kind those kids were,” Hall said Wednesday. “They jumped right in, just anything that we needed them to do.”  The Cadets helped set up tables, direct parking and anything else that was needed. The seniors helped with food service and other chores.  “It was just a huge community effort. Just anybody jumped in and offered to help where it was needed,” Hall said.


At the end of the day, as winning tickets were drawn for the more than 300 baskets and items donated, the tally raised was at $44,800. Master of ceremonies Wayne Conklin coached those remaining to donate, so that $45,000 was the total for the day.

Funds also were donated before and since the dinner, to the total of $49,794. The families of the students involved in the accident can submit medical bills to the group, and the bills will be paid directly.


Four Preston High students, all from the Bruceton area, were in a car that hit a tree after hydroplaning on W.Va. 26 at the intersection with Furfin Road on Feb. 6.  Brayden Bishoff, 15, died of his injuries. Another boy is in rehab in Georgia, and two boys have been released from the hospital.


Hall said the benefit was organized by local people.  “If it wasn’t for this amazing group, I don’t know how this would have even come together,” she said.  The core group of organizers for Saturday’s benefit were Leslie Mike Collins, Alysia Goodwin Funk, Mandi Hall, Kathy Kelly, Luciana Lowe, Ashley McCarty, Lori Morton-Smith, Stacy Snare, Anne Stammler and Stacy Zender.


Fundraising efforts for the families continue. An ATV poker run is planned April 6 beginning at The Tribute, 1661 Bolyard Road, Bruceton Mills.  Registration will begin at 11 a.m. and the ride at 1 p.m. The cost is $10 per rider, and food will be provided at the end of the ride.

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

  • By RUSTY MARKS - The State Journal

Leaders of the Robert C. Byrd Institute and Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy have teamed up for an apprenticeship program intended to introduce young people to careers available in the manufacturing industry.

Robert C. Byrd Institute spokeswoman Becky Calwell said the first group of ChalleNGe Academy Cadets recently completed a Robert C. Byrd Institute pre-apprenticeship program through Apprenticeship Works, the National Advanced Manufacturing Apprenticeship Partnership. The pre-apprenticeship introduces disadvantaged youth to good-paying, high-skill jobs available in manufacturing, Calwell said.

The ChalleNGe Academy is a 22-week program for troubled youths overseen by the West Virginia National Guard. It is designed to focus on academics, job skills, community involvement, citizenship, health and hygiene, physical activity, life-coping skills and leadership.

RCBI Director Charlotte Weber said the partnership with the ChalleNGe Academy is an important way to prepare young people for success in today’s rapidly changing and globalized world.

“Skills training can enhance young people’s well-being and help them develop into active and productive members of their communities,” Weber said. “Programs such as ours can create a pipeline of future workers, which boosts the competitiveness of our state’s manufacturers.”

While at the academy, Cadets took online courses in blueprint reading, robotics, introduction to asembly and pneumatic components and other classes, Calwell said.

“We’re pleased to offer this rewarding opportunity to the Cadets at the ChalleNGe Academy,” said Lucinda Curry, director of Apprenticeship Works. “We hope they continue on this path to success by securing employment and/or continuing to seek out opportunities through registered apprenticeships at manufacturers here in West Virginia.”

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

Asst. Director

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

7. Leadership/Followership

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 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.