It’s hard to believe the Tarheel ChalleNGe Academy has been in Sampson for 20 years, yet in some ways, it’s hard to imagine ever being without the educational facility or its cadre of young men and women.
Both are to the credit of ChalleNGe officials and the cadets who have come and gone from its midst over the past two decades. On the one hand, the academy has been like a best kept secret, quielty and efficiently making a difference in the lives of young people; on another, it’s been an open book, with cadets seen throughout the community in myriad volunteer capacities, becoming the extra helping hands needed to see a project through.
And that’s the way it’s been since ChalleNGe first opened its doors all those years ago.
When the idea of housing the academy at the old Halls-Piney Grove School in Keener was first broached back in 1994, there were skeptics, many who believed the premise of giving at-risk youth, the greatest percentage of them dropouts, a second chance at an education, would somehow cause problems in Sampson.
People envisioned those attending the school as ruffians who would only bring trouble to the community.
Nothing could have been further from what Sampsonians experienced as Tarheel ChalleNGe opened and began to make its mark, first on the lives of those young people who entered it doors and then on the lives of people in our great county.
The end result has been a perfect marriage between Sampson and the academy, with everyone benefiting in many ways, particularly the young people afforded a second chance to make wiser choices and to benefit from those choices as they complete the program and continue on, either by getting a job, joining the military or furthering their education.
The numbers attest to the academy’s success:
• 3,938 have graduated since 1994, with students coming from 92 of the state’s 100 counties;
• 2,687 GEDs have been awarded;
• 364 cadets have enlisted in the military;
• Some 30 percent of the total number of students have enrolled in college or traditional schools
• 90 percent of the students have been motivated toward employment;
• A total 353,398 hours of community service hours have been performed;
• Over $42 million goes to the state because of the academy, much of it returned right here in Sampson
And that’s just some of the many positives we can point to when we talk about the academy and its success.
Sampson has been fortunate to have the academy in its midst for the past 20 years, and we will be luckier still if it’s allowed to continue its mission here in our county for 20 more.
The well-mannered, uniform clad young men and women who make up the academy’s classes each year are a great addition to our community, shining examples of what second chances can do.
We thank the academy’s leadership for all the hard work and determination they’ve brought to the table to make this program a success, and we congratulate them on being good community citizens for the past two decades.