WV Man Uses Mountaineer Challenge Academy to Change Life ~ By Clark Davis • WV Public Broadcasting

Adam Cleek is a former Mountaineer Challenge Academy Alum and Purple Heart recipient. Cleek will speak later today to 800 congressional, corporate and community leaders at the National Guard Youth Foundation Youth’s Challenge Gala in Washington D.C.

Cleek grew up in South Charleston in a middle class family with divorced parents. By the time he entered junior high Cleek says he was hanging out with the wrong crowd. He liked partying better than going to school, dabbled in drugs and did things that got him kicked out of school. From there he was enrolled in the Mountaineer Challenge Academy in Kingwood, West Virginia.

“The Mountaineer Challenge Academy is a quasi-military academy where troubled youth go or youth that have been in some type of trouble,” Cleek said.

Cleek said the things he learned there, made him the man he would become when he entered the military, later earning a purple heart after he was wounded three times while riding in a Humvee in Afghanistan that was fired upon. He said it was the things that the challenge academy helped him realize that turned him into the person he became.

“To create that and have someone that was telling me that I could do something when in my mind and my self-image was saying I could not and by them saying I could do that it just created a different environment for me,” Cleek said.

Cleek earned a bachelor’s degree in three years and a master’s degree in accounting from the University of West Georgia. He worked for a while at Ernst and Young a Business Management Consultant and now is the CFO at a successful health IT firm, EHR Concepts, with his wife. Cleek said the toughness he developed there has helped him at each step in his life.

“When I was there in ’96 it was extremely cold and snowed a lot up in the mountains in Kingwood and we would have to get up and 5:30 to 6 each morning and go out and run in the snow and it just put a mental toughness and fortitude inside of you that made you almost think you could do things that were super human I guess,” Cleek said.

Cleek is the father of three and is expecting his fourth child soon. The Mountaineer Challenge Academy is one of 35 National Guard Youth Challenge Programs nationwide, The Mountaineer Challenge Academy has graduated more than 3,000 cadets since it was founded in 1993.