KINGWOOD, W.Va. – 79 cadets in the West Virginia National Guard’s Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy North have graduated, according to a release from the West Virginia National Guard.

The Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy is a free volunteer program that mentors West Virginia’s at-risk youth over 22 weeks using “the Eight Core Components in a quasi-military environment,” the release said.

“It is truly an honor and privilege to be able to share in the celebration today with these young men and women and their families as they graduate from MCA-North,” Brig. Gen. Michael Cadle, representing the West Virginia National Guard, said. “The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program has had tremendous impacts across the United States and the 79 cadets who graduate here today add to that enduring legacy. This program changes lives and each cadet should be proud of all they have achieved.”

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Cadet Garrett Mazzie receiving the Robert C. Byrd Distinguished Cadet Award (WVNG Photo)

Awards were given out to several graduates.

Of the class of 79 cadets, 63 graduated with a high school diploma, 13 plan to join the military, 17 plan to attend a vocational/technical program and 2 cadets plan to go onto a four-year college program. Only 11 cadets plan to participate in the Mountaineer Job ChalleNGe Program after graduation.

During their time with the program, the cadets “provided more than 4,909 hours of community service through 44 different projects, a recognized value of more than $147,045.51,” the release said.