SALEMBURG — As the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe program celebrates 25 years, local and state supporters are continuing to build relationships to help cadets.
Sampson County is home for one of two academies in North Carolina. The Tarheel ChalleNGe Academy is just two years away from celebrating a milestone of 25 years. The second location is in New London. North Carolina was the 10th state to have a national youth challenge program to help high school dropouts, expelled students and other youths facing troubles.
Retired Col. Edward Timmons, state director for Tarheel ChalleNGe of North Carolina, recently talked about how North Carolina is one of the first states to buy into the program.
“Not all states have a second program,” Timmons stressed. “Only about six states have two or more programs.”
As ChalleNGe director for North Carolina, Timmons was quick to point out how important it is to reinforce partnerships in the state. One of the recent events he conducted was a special one with Sampson Community College (SCC). The local college partners with the academy to provide college and career readiness programs for cadets. They touted that relationship during an Aug. 25 celebration. The next mixer will take place in New London, with supporting partners present.
In North Carolina, more than 4,600 students have graduated from the programs since it began a couple decades ago. Timmons credited contributions from partnering agencies. In addition to SCC, some of the others are Stanly Community College, Job Corps, AmeriCorps, Boys & Girls Club of America, Boy Scouts of America, and Tarheel ChalleNGe Incorporated, a nonprofit program funded by donations from parents, community members, sponsors and fundraisers to support the academy in Salemburg. A similar organization, Tarheel ChalleNGe Association, supports the New London organization. During the mixer, an award was presented to the college and other supporters.
Through assistance and partnerships, Timmons said the academies have worked to provide a variety of options for youth, such as high school equivalency diplomas, continuing education for career pathways, and the traditional high school diploma.
“‘It’s about us increasing the opportunities for all of our cadets and the students of North Carolina,” Timmons said. “We’re excited about all of the stuff we do for them.”
Timmons added that 100 percent of the cadets at both academies become better students while they are enrolled.
Some of the ways they enrich themselves while at the academy are through life skills, job expertise and an understanding the importance of giving back to the community.
“All of those attributes and so forth are going to help them in their future lives,” Timmons asserted. “To see that growth in them even surprises them as an individual.”
Timmons said it’s a humbling experience to see the graduates succeed and be prepared for the future. He reinforced that’s it’s made possible by the directors and college presidents such as Dr. Paul Hutchins of SCC. Timmons said he hopes the next president is just as supportive as Hutchins has been during his tenure.
“Whatever they did in the past doesn’t matter,” he said about the cadets. “It’s all about what they do here and what they do with the opportunities they are given.”