Program Overview

Tarheel ChalleNGe Academy Youth Program Information Sheet

The Tarheel ChalleNGe Academy is a quasi-military style program for at risk school dropouts, and is sponsored by the North Carolina National Guard. The mission of the Academy is to redirect the efforts of young adults who have had trouble succeeding in the normal high school environment, and give them the skills and attitude to become productive citizens in their communities.

The Academy located in Sampson County in Salemburg, North Carolina. It is a 17 1/2-month program divided into two distinct phases: a 5 1/2 month in-residence at the Academy, and a 12-month post-residential phase immediately following graduation from the in-residence phase. The prospective cadet must volunteer for the training, and must be motivated and committed to turning his/her life around.

Even though the North Carolina National Guard sponsors the Tarheel ChalleNGe Academy, there are no military obligations for attending. Cadets are free to choose the military service as one of their options. There is no cost to the cadet, parents or family for attending this program other than the cadet’s personal items (e.g., underclothes, tennis shoes, and toilet articles).

During the in-residence phase, cadets are supervised by cadre members 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They wear uniforms, do physical training, attend classes, and learn to work within a structured and disciplined environment. During this phase, emphasis is placed on life skills, self-discipline, teamwork, leadership and followership, team building, work ethics, service to community, physical fitness, respect for others, self-esteem, loyalty and integrity. A major part of the Academy curriculum provides for High School Equivalency (HSE) schooling and testing, and possible adult education training. During this phase, cadets receive a weekly allowance of $15 to offset personal care items and to develop and practice financial responsibility.

During the post-residential phase, graduates are assigned a trained, volunteer mentor. The primary role of this adult mentor is to assist the graduate in continuing the path to success that was started during the in-residence phase. The mentor provides friendship, advice and companionship, and assists the graduate in seeking employment and/or enrolling in college or vocational school or training.

Qualifications for entry into Tarheel ChalleNGe Academy:
a. At least 16 years old, but less than 18 years old at time of entry.
b. A High school dropout or expellee without a HSE Diploma.

c. A U.S. citizen and North Carolina resident.

d. Free from illegal drugs/substance and any serious involvement with the criminal justice system.
e. Physically and mentally capable of completing the program.
f. Unemployed or underemployed.
g. Successfully pass a medical screening exam.

h. Be a volunteer.

Although very important, obtaining the HSE is not the primary thrust of the Academy. The focus is on learning and developing the necessary life coping skills to succeed after the cadet completes the in-residence phase. The Academy teaches and enforces what society expects from its young adults; i.e. civil behavior, hard work, responsibility, and giving back to the community, state and nation.

Tarheel ChalleNGe works! Four thousand, five hundred and nineteen (4,519) proud young men and women have graduated from the program. Of these 2,943 obtained their HSE while in the residential phase. These young men and women seized their “Second Chance” and made it work. Because of the training they receive, approximately 90% of TCA graduates remain gainfully placed (i.e., in school, working or in the military) 12 months after graduation.