Maj. Gen. Greg Lusk, the adjutant general of North Carolina, stands with Honor Graduate Cadet Samuel Moran, after Class 01 of the New London’s Tarheel Challenge Academy graduates at the Stanly County Agri-Civic Center in Albemarle, North Carolina, April 21, 2016. September 2015 marked the grand opening of the New London Tarheel Challenge Academy (TCA) program. The Tarheel Challenge Academy, sponsored by the North Carolina National Guard, has a sister location in Salemburg that has been in operation for over 21 years, and graduated over 4,300 youth. TCA is a unique quasi-military structure instills at risk teens with life skills while focusing on academics, physical training, self-discipline, teamwork, leadership, team building, work ethics, service to community, respect for others, self-esteem, loyalty and integrity. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Leticia Samuels, Public Affairs/Released)
News Story as follows
ALBEMARLE, N.C. – Cadets making up Class 01 of the North Carolina National Guard’s Tarheel Challenge Youth Academy celebrated with roars of laughter and joy during their graduation ceremony at the Stanly County Agri-Civic Center, here April 21, 2016.
Class 01 is the first class through the recently opened and newly renovated elementary school in New London. Parents applauded, cried out with joy and cheered as they watched their son or daughter accept their credentials and walk across the stage.
“It has been a long five and half months,” said Samuel Moran, the Class 01 Honor Graduate. “Everything we have heard, everything we have seen and everything we have done has changed us. Not for the worse but for the better, and now we are all headed down the right paths. We may not all be taking the same routes, but we are headed for the same destination and that destination is success.”
September 2015 marked the grand opening of the New London Tarheel Challenge Academy (TCA) program. The Tarheel Challenge Academy, sponsored by the North Carolina National Guard, has a sister location in Salemburg, that has been in operation for over 21 years and graduated over 4,300 youth.
“You have given yourselves a fresh start, an opportunity to hit the reset button and reprioritize your life,” said North Carolina House Representative and guest speaker Justin Burr. “You can leave here today with a clean slate.”
NCNG Army Lt. Col. Maury Williams, the New London Tarheel Challenge director, said that first responders, local law enforcement and other leaders of the community look forward to the growth of the new location.
“They are residents and long-time members of this community,” said Williams. “They are glad to see something in this facility, and now that they have gotten to know us, they are glad that Tarheel Challenge is that something. We get the utmost support from our constituents here in the county of New London.”
All of the New London staff worked together to ensure the program ran smooth for its first cycle.
“Everybody has gone above and beyond or worked out of their original job description, and that is what it took to get those 50 graduates out the door today,” said Williams. “We hope that were going to exceed the 100 numbers starting May 15th with the next class. The program will continue to grow.”
TCA is designed to provide at-risk teens with a second chance to turn their lives around and is a quasi-military program that instills discipline, structure and values similar to what soldiers experience going through basic training.
Cadets undergo a rigorous 22-week resident course where they are exposed to cultural awareness, conflict resolution, self-building exercises, life skills, and teamwork. They also work toward attaining their General Education Development (GED) and have the opportunity to take the Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery exam, the Scholastic Assessment Test and participate in community service and fundraisers.
“On a typical day, they wake up at 5:30 a.m.,” said TCA Commandant, Cassandra Stephens. “They have about 20 minutes to get in personal hygiene, then we have to raise the colors at 5:55 a.m. Each team rotates raising and lowering the colors. After that, they will do their 55 minutes of physical training.”
“It feels amazing!” said Moran. “It has been a long five and a half months and I just feel so happy. I have learned a lot; how to deal with multiple personalities, and I grew to each one. I’m going to miss everyone. It’s an overwhelming sense of pride.
The 26-arce New London TCA location has a woman’s dormitory under construction with funds provided by the North Carolina State Employees Credit Union.
“We will be able to house 50 females in that facility,” said Williams. “As we stand the program up, we are already able to give back to the community by hiring employees to do construction for this facility.”
State Representative Burr had fitting closing remarks during Class 01’s graduation ceremony.
“Be a leader in your family, in your neighborhood, in your community, and possibly one day your state and nation,” said Burr. “It isn’t always going to be easy, but take the lessons learned during your time here and dream big for yourself.”