SALEMBURG — Inside the Tarheel ChalleNGe Academy, Col. (Ret.) Edward W. Timmons looked into the young faces of cadets and shared a vision of success.
“I wish you could see what I see from here,” Timmons said. “You are our next greatest generation…”
Tarheel ChalleNGe Academy celebrated 22 years of providing service to at-risk youths in North Carolina. The program sponsored by the National Guard provides a viable option for North Carolina high school dropouts. Another part of the mission is to produce graduates with values, life skills, education and self-discipline necessary to succeed as productive citizens.
“I believe that if you don’t understand your own history, you will clearly have difficulty in forging your future,” Timmons said before giving the history of the program.
It began in Keener, but through the years it would eventually call Salemburg home, inside a building which once served as an elementary school.
“Tarheel ChalleNge Academy has graduated 4,320 graduates to date that dare to dream, believe and achieve,” Timmons said.
While participating in the traditional cake cutting with Timmons and Cadet Daniel Capistran, Cadet Na’llah Strange enjoyed hearing about the successes of the program. As a participant in the program, the 16-year-old is learning how to work better with people.
“You get to see all of the trials and tribulations that everyone went through before us,” Strange said. “It makes you want to keep moving on.”
The other cadets participating in the program included Katlyn Tester, Kenyon Pelzer and Tanner Holder, who gave the benediction.
Funds from federal and state dollars allow thousands of cadets to participate in a 22-week resident program at no cost. The Monday celebration was the halfway point for the 16 to 18-year-old cadets enrolled in the Salemburg academy. A graduation ceremony is scheduled for the summer.
During the event, the cadets received a visit from Rep. Larry Bell and Salemburg Mayor Joseph Warren Jr. Both guests showed their support for the academy which helps thousands of youths throughout North Carolina.
“I hope that we always have it here,” Bell said. “It’s a good benefit for all of the students in North Carolina. I wish more Sampson County students would take part in this. Many times, we don’t have a lot from our own county.”
Warren believes that it’s wonderful that Tarheel ChalleNGe has a preventative program to help young adults from different areas of the state.
“It has been something to be proud of and have been reflected in many compliments that have been made over the years from visitors, citizens who have appreciated the way they have conducted themselves,” Warren said.
Timmons added that all of the students in Tarheel ChalleNGe are survivors who benefit from the direction of Tarheel leaders and staff. Each cadet has a master plan which includes goals for what they want to do after graduation.
“We take pride in everything that we do,” Timmons said following the celebration about the cadets being successful. “I’m a firm believer that what we’re doing is saving lives.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.