HARLAN – On Thursday, Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimesmet staff and cadets at the Appalachian ChalleNGe Academy, which uses quasi-military principles to improve life skills, education levels, and employability in 16-to-18-year-olds who have dropped out or are at risk of dropping out of school. The Academy is part of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe program and is one of two such programs in Kentucky.
“We have a need for the ChalleNGe Academy, and it is critical to ensuring that the least, last and lost among our youth are supported,” said Grimes. “I believe it is vital to our Commonwealth’s future that our youth are prepared to be good citizens of our state.”
Grimes traveled to Harlan with Brigadier General Charles T. Jones to see firsthand how the Academy is transforming the lives of Kentucky youths. She met with members of the 7th class of the Academy, which is comprised of 134 cadets. The cadets have completed one month of a five-month residential phase, which will be followed by a year-long mentoring phase.
“I saw firsthand today the amazing work the ChalleNGe Academy is doing,” said Grimes. “I applaud the Kentucky National Guard for giving a lift to young Kentuckians who otherwise might slip through the cracks, and I’m glad to be an advocate for this outstanding program.”
In Kentucky, approximately 400 students complete the Academy each year. The program helps students obtain their GEDs or recover credits and graduate from high school. The Academy’s success stories include students who have gone on to become a neurosurgeon, professional football player, and standout military officer trainee.
Grimes, as chief advocate for civic engagement, is passionate about empowering Kentucky’s youth and encouraging them to be engaged. Early in 2012, Grimes released Kentucky’s first-ever Civic Health Index, which uses U.S. Census data to measure civic participation in a variety of areas, including voter registration and community involvement. Later that year and into 2013, Grimes conducted a statewide series of 15 roundtable discussions to create new partnerships and explore best practices for improving civic health in the Commonwealth.
Grimes also sponsors annual essay and slogan contests to involve young Kentuckians in the election process. She has been an advocate for youth in Frankfort, such as the Pritchard Committee Student Voice Team, and has helped the Kentucky Boys and Girls State programs with their elections each year. Grimes regularly visits schools and welcomes students of all ages to her office and encourages them to pursue their ambitions and be active in their communities.
For more information about the Appalachian ChalleNGe Academy, visit acaharlan.org.