FT. McCOY, Wis. (WXOW) - The Wisconsin National Guard's Challenge Academy began it's 47th Class Cycle today. Over 90 students processed through Tomah's Parks and Rec buildings while giving their loved ones a "see you later" hug before hopping on the bus to Fort McCoy.
The Challenge Academy is a 22-week program that provides a military structured education curriculum that also incorporates physical fitness and leadership opportunities.
Director of the Challenge Academy, Scott Pavlock, says the students who come there are those struggling at school or may drop out and live in challenging environments.
"They come from the over 400 districts throughout Wisconsin, you have to be in a Wisconsin school district," Pavlock said. "They're considered "at risk" kids. The big misnomer here is that we're a delinquency program, that these kids are felons, or kids on a court order, it's quite the opposite"
The Academy's cadre wants to be sure these kids know what they're getting into.
"It is absolutely a volunteer program, as a matter of fact, we not only make sure the the kids are volunteering, but the parents understand they have to volunteer," Pavlock said. "So during our orientation that we have, we separate the kids from the parents, they're all told what's going to happen and the kids must be buying in 100% of the program"
After student process into the program, they are place in barracks housing separate male and female platoons. The first two weeks, called the Acclimation Phase, is the hardest part of their journey as approximately 20% of the class washes during that period.
After that Acclimation Phase, the rest of the curriculum is merit based and fueled with incentives for students to achieve personal and team awards while gaining pride and confidence.
Free to attend thanks to state and federal funding, the academy cycles about 3 to 4 classes a year with the next one scheduled in October.
To find out how to apply or learn more about the program… Visit https://www.challengeacademy.org/.