Local teens complete Freestate ChalleNGe Academy course

Freestate ChalleNGe Academy Cadet Brennan Darr fights back tears of gratitude as retired U.S. Air Force Gen. Larry O. Spencer (center) and Maryland Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Linda Singh (right) applaud his thoughts, during the course completion ceremony Havre de Grace High School, Havre de Grace, Md., Dec. 10, 2016. | Photo by Spc. Elizabeth Scott, Maryland National Guard

HAVRE DE GRACE, Md.— The Maryland National Guard Freestate Challenge Academy, or FCA, hosted a completion ceremony at Havre de Grace High School, Dec. 10, for the 104 cadets of its 47th class.

The FCA offers high school dropouts a second chance at an education through its military-style, enhanced discipline program that includes the opportunity to earn a GED. The ceremony, similar to a high school graduation, advances FCA cadets out of the 22-week residential program toward productive lifestyles in the workforce, college or trade schools, or military.

Counselor Keith Dickerson emceed the program which was attended by hundreds of family members and friends as well as post and local dignitaries and FCA sponsors and supporters.

Maryland National Guard Freestate Challenge Academy Class #47 cadets celebrate completing the 22-week residency portion of the academy during the course completion ceremony at Havre de Grace High School, Havre de Grace, Md., Dec. 10, 2016. | Photo by Spc. Elizabeth Scott, Maryland National Guard
Maryland National Guard Freestate Challenge Academy Class #47 cadets celebrate completing the 22-week residency portion of the academy during the course completion ceremony at Havre de Grace High School, Havre de Grace, Md., Dec. 10, 2016. | Photo by Spc. Elizabeth Scott, Maryland National Guard

The program featured remarks from the guest speaker, U.S. Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, retired Gen. Larry O. Spencer; Maryland Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Linda Singh; and FCA Director Charles Holloway. MDNG Chaplain Lt. Col. Christopher Otten of the 175th Wing Command delivered the invocation and benediction and the Maryland Defense Force Band provided music.

In his graduation message, Holloway said the perseverance the cadets gained is a lifelong trait. He encouraged parents and mentors to help them through their first year and beyond.

“Remember that failure is the framework from which greatness will derive,” he told the cadets. “If you never fail, you will never know what it will take to succeed. Do not be afraid of failing; be afraid of never getting back up.”

Spencer added that he never envisioned himself as a success, until life propelled him toward the military. It was then that he warmed to military life and decided to excel as far as he could.

“You can be anything you want to be as long as you put your mind to it and work toward it,” he told the cadets. “I’m proud of each and every one of you.”

Individual awards

The following cadets received $200 awards for individual achievements:

  • Cadets of the Cycle: Deandre Kidwell and Dasia Williams
  • Most Improved Cadet: Joshua Kobin
  • Commandant’s Award for Leadership: Mantaurius Portis
  • Academic Excellence Award: Jocelyn Lucio
  • Physical Fitness Award: Marquest Davis Miller and Tiara Schine

Educational awards

The following cadets received scholarship awards for continued education:

  • Andrew Hernandez, $1,000; MDNG Foundation
  • Anthony Lewis, $1,000; Pedro 66 Scholarship
  • Jocelyn Lucio, $1,000; Edward St. John Foundation
  • DaVaugh Brown, $1,000; MDNG Youth ChalleNGe Foundation
  • Owen Goetz, $1,000; MDNG Youth ChalleNGe Foundation
  • Deborah Silva, $1,000; MDNG Youth ChalleNGe Foundation
  • Marlin Parker, $1,000; MDNG Youth ChalleNGe Foundation
  • Keon Nickens, $2,500; Harford Community College
  • Joshua Kobin, $2,500; Harford Community College

About FCA

The FCA is a tuition-free program which offers at-risk adolescents 16 to 18 years old an opportunity to change their future, for the better by providing the skills, education and self-discipline needed to become responsible, productive citizens.

The initial program consists of a 22-week residential phase. During this phase the cadets learn self-discipline, leadership and responsibility. Participants live and work in a controlled military environment, encouraging teamwork and personal growth. A 12-month post-residential phase focuses on helping enroll graduates in continued education, technical school programs or entry-level employment. During the post-residential phase, students are assisted by at least one trained mentor from the community for further development.

For more information, visit the FCA website at http://freestatemil.maryland.gov.

Story by Yvonne Johnson, APG News

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