Appalachian ChalleNGe Academy seeks applicants for free program

By Matthew Rand | 

GRAY'S KNOB, Ky. (WYMT) - The Appalachian ChalleNGe Academy is accepting applications for its upcoming term. A Harlan County teenager who completed the course says it turned his life around.

18-year-old Rome Meade describes his teenage years as an angry time.

"I guess I was about 16. I dropped out of high school," he said. "I gave up on school. I gave up on everything else. I was going down a wrong path."

Two years later, Meade would sign up for the Appalachian ChalleNGe Academy. For 22 weeks, he and his peers stayed in barracks, followed a strict routine, and worked on a number of life skills.

"This is a quasi-military environment here at the academy," explained the academy's deputy director, Josh Coldiron. "It is very rewarding but it is also very challenging."

During their stay here at the academy, cadets can either work on finishing their own high school credits or working towards their GED. However, directors say it is about more than just academics. The program focuses on eight core components, including life coping skills, physical training, and community service. The academy's very first class just graduated Sunday.

"In our first class we had 60 graduates. We had 20 cadets that earned GEDs. We had 32 that are returning to high school," said Coldiron.

Meade was one of the cadets that earned a GED diploma. He challenges others looking for direction to give the program a try.

"You'll want to quit, you'll miss your friends and your family more than anything, but if you tough it out and you stick it out to the end, on graduation day it will be the best feeling you've ever experienced in your life," he said.

Meade says his life has turned completely around and has plans to attend nursing school next year.

The challenge academy's next class begins January 13th. For more information, or to apply, call 606-574-0303 or visit

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