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    MYCA graduates class 42; sets record

    MYCA graduates class 42; sets record

    Photo By Master Sgt. David Eichaker | The Michigan Youth Challenge Academy graduating class 42, is Michigan's first class...... read more read more



    Story by Master Sgt. David Eichaker 

    Michigan National Guard

    BATTLE CREEK, Mich.—The Michigan Youth Challenge Academy (MYCA) is a program that offers at-risk youth the chance to change their future for the better. The 22-week program faced its own obstacles during this recent class, but even COVID-19 could not stop the academy or students from reaching their potential as a number of records were broken in class 42.

    “We had 113 people accomplish and fulfill the obligations for a high school education,” said Army Maj. Gen. Paul Rogers. “One hundred and twelve diplomas and one GED were earned—that’s incredible—that’s amazing, and that's a new record for the youth academy.”

    Typically during the course, family members are allowed to visit their sons and daughters. With the implementation of social distancing throughout the state, visitors were not allowed and even though this was challenging for the academy, through innovation, a new way of doing business was formed.

    “All visitors and non-essential personnel were prohibited from entering the MYCA and all parent and mentor visitations were cancelled,” said Director Michael Gillum, MYCA. “However, cadets received extra-long phone calls and were able to FaceTime with their families on a regular basis.”

    The MYCA has partnered with a local school in order to allow cadets to meet the state requirements needed for a high school education.

    “Our education partner, Marshall Public Schools, truly saved the academic portion of our program,” said Anica Jankowski, deputy director, MYCA. “When the announcement was made that teachers were not going to be allowed to return to the building for an indefinite amount of time, we immediately loaded all the face-to-face courses into online learning, which allowed cadets to continue their coursework.”

    Just as the academy had to come up with creative ways to have a successful academy, the teachers used their own ingenuity to create an atmosphere of teaching success.

    “Through virtual technology, the teachers were allowed to see the cadets, check homework, answer questions, and have a more interactive learning experience,” said Jankowski.

    The academy, which graduated a record-breaking amount of students, had its counseling department involved as well.

    “Counselors started using live events to conduct parent workshops,” said Jankowski. “These are usually conducted in conjunction with each of the five parent visitations that happen throughout the cycle.”

    “Many of our partners have switched to virtual delivery, including licensed counseling and religious services, adding that our equine therapy group is offering horsemanship classes to us using Zoom as much as possible,” said Jankowski.

    Even as class number 42 condensed the 22-week course into 19, they were still able to meet their core requirements, which includes community involvement.

    “We had to find ways to allow cadets to complete the service to community requirements,” said Jankowski. “Cadets averaged 20 hours of community services and some even participated in mask making or blanket crocheting, which resulted in 500 masks and 15 crocheted blankets made and donated to both the Battle Creek Federal Center and Veterans Affairs campus.”

    Their contributions didn’t go unrecognized either.

    “Despite the shorter time and the restrictions, you still achieved all your community-service hours that you were expected to accomplish,” said Rogers, via a virtual graduation commencement speech. “I wish I could be there with you in person but unfortunately with the COVID-19 and social distancing requirements, a virtual message was the safest option.”

    “I don’t want this to take away from how proud I am of everything you all have done,” said Rogers.

    The academy graduates are now ready for their next personal chapters as they face post-graduation life.

    “You're here to celebrate the graduation that is now part of your legacy,” said Rogers. “You are on a personal journey and you're writing your story that no one else can.”

    “When you leave here tomorrow, what are you going to do to keep the momentum going that you've built in this program,?” asked Rogers.

    During the pandemic, the way America operated completely changed. Through quick thinking, the academy saw little disruptions.

    “Of the 42 Youth Challenge Programs across the country, Michigan is one of only 10 programs that has been fortunate enough to operate generally undisrupted,” said Gillum. “We have far exceeded the standard for core program requirements during this time.”

    Highly spirited, cadets learned intangibles not seen in any other class.

    “Cadets have already demonstrated flexibility and resiliency well above the normal threshold at the academy,” said Gillum. “An early graduation provides a tangible reward for their efforts and the adaptability they have displayed throughout this program despite the COVID-19 disruption.”

    “This is an amazing opportunity for you to set your course for your future,” said Rogers. “I hope you take full advantage of it. I hope you do great and amazing things for yourself. God bless you all, congratulations, and keep moving forward.”



    Date Taken: 05.17.2020
    Date Posted: 05.17.2020 12:23
    Story ID: 370164

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