On May 28, Maj. Gen. Edward W. Tonini, adjutant general for Kentucky, and president of the National Guard Youth Challenge Foundation Lou Cabrera visited Harlan County’s Appalachian ChalleNGe Academy (ACA) — a 22 week life-changing program for at risk youth between the ages of 16 and 18.
They were welcomed by a formation of cadets, organized by platoons and ready to tackle the day. The visit began with introductions of the staff and visitors, followed by a briefing of the accomplishments of the ACA and its plans for the future. The visitors ate lunch with the cadets, and were pleasantly surprised at how well-mannered and respectful they were as they enjoyed their meal.
For an hour Tonini and Cabrera toured the ACA and talked with cadets. They visited the classrooms where the students worked towards recovering credits, some getting ahead in school and others striving for their GED.
Next, they inspected each platoons barracks, noting the cleanliness and the neatness of the bunks, Col Abell said that a “well-made bed is always comforting after a day of hard work.” Some cadets have gained all of their credits and finished schooling, so their energy is being put towards life skills such as lawn care, gardening and facility maintenance. Cadet Kearley, who is in charge of the gardening program, told the group that the cadets put a lot of work into the garden and are proud of seeing their labor turn into something good.
The final stop in the tour was the archery and golfing area set up in the gymnasium. ACA staff explained to the visitors that the golfing program uses interactive activities to explain different components of good character. A fan of archery himself, Abell was thrilled to see cadets learning how to shoot arrows and gave tips of his own.
The tour concluded and the visitors said their final words to the staff and cadets. Cabrera said that this young academy is offering a lot and has a lot more to give.