, Corbin, KY


June 23, 2014

Appalachian ChalleNGe Academy

CORBIN — From Hazard to Harlan, Pineville to Paintsville, Williamsburg to Whitesburg, Barbourville to Betsy Lane, the Kentucky National Guard ChalleNGe is making a difference in the lives of teenagers between the ages of 16-18 and families all across Southeastern Kentucky. Appalachian ChalleNGe Academy is a structured program that is providing answers, hope, and a new foundation to individuals and families. In July of 1999 The ChalleNGe Program begin in Kentucky as a special project of the Governor’s Office through the Adjutant General and The Kentucky National Guard.

On Saturday, July 14, the Appalachian ChalleNGe Program administrated from the facility and campus in Harlan County graduated 100 Cadets who successfully completed the 22 week course. The program is designed to foster values, life skills, education and self-discipline that will help the cadet succeed in life as a productive citizen. Witnessing the teenage boys and girls marching into the area created and staged for their graduation ceremony was a moving moment of exciting.

Realizing that for some of these youths, this was the first major accomplishment of their lives. Indeed 14 cadets completed the course work to receive their General Education Diplomas (GED) and 4 students earned the remaining credit hours necessary to complete their requirements for the high school diplomas. The “quasi-military” program is built around eight core components.

The components include: Responsible Citizenship; Academic Excellence; Life-Coping Skills; Service to Community; Health and Hygiene; Job Skills Training; Leadership/Followhip; Physical Fitness; Cadets who graduate will have improved their talents and skills in attention to detail, respect, self-discipline and the key to military life is understanding the chain of command. At Saturday’s graduation I was personally impressed by the number of cadets that had begun the process of enlisting in a branch of the Armed Services of the United States and or who had sought out additional education and opportunities that are related to the service.

The Bible teaches in scripture that “you have not because you haven’t asked”. In the mountains we are fond of the saying “be careful for what you ask for,” knowing that life can sometimes bring a flood of things all at once that can be completely overwhelming. Yet, asking for help, and seeing positive change leaves one to only question, what more should you ask for? Needing help and receiving improving assistance is a part of the solution when faced with issues of difficulty. Not sure what way to turn and then having someone help you across the street is the guiding hand that was necessary when we find ourselves struck looking up and down the street not sure where to go or what to do.

Yes, life’s solutions can be found from simple as asking someone for help. Our resistance to help is that most often we think we know what the answer should be or we have already put into our mind and attitude the only answer we will accept. As you know just from reading my last sentence that isn’t the way life works and we know that mindset works against all things not only positive but good too.

Watching the cadets throughout the graduation ceremony I found interesting the two faces they displayed. The first face was the straightforward, serious looking, eyes fixed, feet marching face of no distraction. The second face the cadets displayed was the one that included the big smile of excitement, and sense of pride they had from successfully completing the program and conquering their fears. I know that sense of accomplishment as I too have attempted to overcome my fears and the sense of confidence that fills your life after reaching your goal is a feeling and learning experience that sticks with you throughout life.

These cadets who have just now graduated are now connected with mentors who will communicate weekly to follow-up, provide encouragement and lend support for the next year as the cadet adjusts to the real practice of their learning and the value of being productive and the change that comes with that success.

Until then...

You can reach Tim Mills at

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