It's one of 34 in the country and the second in the commonwealth. A National Guard ChalleNGe Academy will be opening in Harlan County in July of next year. Cadets from the Bluegrass Academy in Fort Knox came down to help prepare it.
The Harlan County Fiscal Court has done a lot of the construction in the building which was most recently “Hall Elementary School” until its closure in 2007.
The Appalachian Challenge Academy will be the second in the state for at risk youth who want to turn their life around
“It’s for at risk kids, dropouts, kids that are right on the fence getting ready to fall off that haven't had leadership in their life, we take those kids and we put them in a 22 week in house program where we work on their physical fitness, work on their academics, get them back into high school, back into college,” said Croley Forester, the director of the program.
Forester said that after the 22 week program the cadets will then be able to obtain help for one year while searching for jobs and many of them involve careers in the military.
“Through the academic program at the academy they can graduate at their old high school or get their G.E.D. one of the two,” said Forester.
Cadets who have graduated or earned credits said that it makes them proud.
“I finished my junior year of school here completely,” said Cadet Qurter Nealy of the Bluegrass ChalleNGe Academy.
“I can actually finish school, before I came in here I probably wasn't going to finish school.”
Other cadets echoed the same sentiment about being able to start over.
“It's like the first step now I can start college and begin my life because before I really didn't know what I wanted to do but I got the chance and it opened so many doors gave me so many opportunities,” said Cadet Jordan Anthony of the Bluegrass ChalleNGe Academy.
Forester said that the cadets are doing whatever they can to get it ready for next year. it will open in July and they are just going through painting, sorting things, making sure that everything is in place.
“I am hoping that us putting in this work, it also taught me job skills and hopefully help somebody improve their lives as well,” said Anthony.
“Well, it just really helped me work on me,” said Cadet Andrew Coddington.
“I came here in search of a better me and that's what I got.”
“If you really feel like you can change yourself and you think that you can do it, this is a good place for you,” said Nealy.
The academy will create 55 jobs. Around 45 of those jobs will be hired next year. Forester said a job fair should be held sometime in January.