|(Editor’s note: This is the third Fort McCoy
“SPOTLIGHT,” a series about tenant activities at Fort McCoy and their
What is it?
The Wisconsin National Guard Challenge Academy is a 17-month program for
youth who are between the ages of 16 years, 9 months and up to 19 years
old who are at risk of not graduating high school. The program offers
youth the opportunity to develop the strength of character and life
skills necessary to become successful, responsible citizens.
Cadets enrolled in the Wisconsin
National Guard Challenge Academy participate in an academic
class at Fort McCoy. Academic excellence is one of eight core
components of the program.
(Photo by Geneve N. Mankel)
The Challenge Academy is part of the National Guard’s Youth
Challenge Program, which began in 1993 in 10 states. The Wisconsin
Challenge Academy was established in 1998 and became a tenant
activity at Fort McCoy the same year.
Challenge Academy cadets spend 22 weeks at Fort McCoy for the
residential phase of the program. During this phase cadets complete
curriculum based on the eight core components of the program —
academic excellence, job skills, physical fitness,
leadership/fellowship, health and hygiene, life-coping skills,
citizenship and service to the community.
Following the residential training, cadets work with mentors of
their choosing in their hometown. Mentors can be any unrelated
adult, for example teachers, counselors, and law-enforcement
personnel, etc., who can provide guidance to the teen. Counselors
from the Challenge Academy continue to provide support and guidance
to the cadet and mentor during the post-residential phase.
What have they done?
The Challenge Academy is conducting its 27th class cycle. To date,
2,249 cadets have graduated from the academy.
During each of the academy’s two yearly cycles, upwards of 170
cadets participate in the program, with an average of 100
graduating. On average, nearly nine out of 10 graduates will earn
their high school equivalency diploma while in residence at the
What do they have planned?
The next class cycle begins in January 2012.
During its second 10 years at Fort McCoy the Challenge Academy will
work to improve upon its successes from its first 10 years and work
to continue to provide a successful intervention program for at-risk
youth in Wisconsin. The program also hopes to have new facilities
built at Fort McCoy before its 20-year anniversary.
With over 85,000 high school truants and dropouts in Wisconsin, the
Challenge Academy intervenes before these youth commit to a life of
crime or drug abuse. The program is not a rehabilitation program;
applicants must be free of drugs, be mentally and physically
healthy, not be on probation or parole and not be awaiting
sentencing, be convicted of, or have charges pending for a felony.
The Academy helps youth out of situations that would prevent them
from completing high school and helps them grow and earn
self-confidence and discipline.
At Fort McCoy the cadets fulfill the service-to-community core
component by filling sand bags for use in military training and
providing grounds, trail and building improvements. In the
surrounding communities the cadets also participate in Adopt a
Highway, visit veterans at the VA hospital in Tomah, tutor children
in the Sparta school district, assist with the Tomah and Sparta Boys
& Girls Clubs, and volunteer with the Special Olympics.
Applications and information about the program are available by
calling the Challenge Academy at 608-388-7471 or visiting the