'At Risk' kids begin their journey to a better life

By: Eric Eckstrom Email
By: Eric Eckstrom Email
Last night at 11 we introduced you to a group of at-risk kids arriving at the Appalachian challenge academy... welcome to day one

MGN Online

For most of us, it's hard enough getting up in the morning, without an alarm clock that yells while turing the lights on. But for the next 22 weeks, 70 boys and girls will start each day like this. It’s day one at the Appalachian Challenge Academy in Harlan, and the shock is already sinking in.

I'm like, oh my gosh...I hear this whistle blowing, and I'm like oh God...I don't know its just like something new,” said Blake Couch, a new cadet.

“My back hurts, my feet hurt, my head hurts, my arms hurt,” said Lacie Smith, also new.

The kids are here because of their 'at risk' identity.

“It can include having trouble in school, dropped out of school, you may have had runs in with the wrong crowd,” said Joshua Coldiron, academy director.

But this crowd doesn't put up with the kinds of behavior that landed many of the kids here. Only one day into the program, cadets are already learning that lesson.

“When I first came here I was really rude to one of the sergeants...when she looked at me she just said 'who are you talking to?' and I was like 'oh my gosh',” Smith says

But staff here say the idea is not to scare the kids straight, but rather to teach structure and discipline while providing physical and psychological education.

“Some Cadets that come in earn their G-E-D, there are kids who earn credits to return to their original high school, we have cadets that end up going into the military after they finish here,” Coldiron said.

At the end of the day, it’s a 22 week challenge that staff members hope might change their outlook on life.

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