Tarheel ChalleNGe Academy system marks 30th anniversary

Published 2:46 pm Thursday, April 11, 2024

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Tarheel ChalleNGe Academy (TCA) officially opened its doors in 1994 in Keener, and Tarheel ChalleNGe Academy- New London began in 2015.

The quasi-military program celebrated its 30th anniversary during a special program March 28. A six-time national award-winning academy, Tarheel serves at-risk youths and is sponsored by the National Guard.

Over these last 30 years, TCA has advanced to a multi-tiered academy to meet the needs of North Carolina youth by offering educational programs such as a high school equivalency (HSE) program, high school diploma (HSD) program, credit recovery program, science technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) certificates and geographical information system (ArcGIS) certificates to help students earn or make up lost credits to return to high school and college classes and explore other career options after graduation.

Since that time, more than 6,976 cadets representing 100 of the state’s 100 counties have graduated from the program: 4,366 high school equivalencies, 693 high school diplomas and 17 credits recovery. There are 8,045 trained volunteer mentors, approximately 450 have enlisted in the Armed Forces and National Guard, and more than 54% have enrolled in college or trade school.

During the ceremony, CSM (Ret.) Monte Forte, deputy director of the Salemburg campus, spoke about the history and North Carolina being one of the first states to have a ChalleNGe program.

After the Salemburg campus was established in 2000 for more space, a second location opened in 2015 at New London.

Ronnie McNeill, director of Salemburg, spoke about Class 62 becoming a part of TCA’s history and how so many before them have successfully become productive citizens.

“We owe a great debt of gratitude to the pioneers who had the vision and the foresight to place priority on the future success of North Carolina’s youth,” McNeill said regarding the thousands of former cadets who are now productive citizens.

After a video presentation showing the success, McNeill provided more encouragement to young cadets in attendance. He talked about the accomplishments of former cadets with various occupations in law enforcement and the business sector. While facing the cadets, McNeill expressed how they can have successful lives, too.

“Someone told you that you couldn’t — that’s 30 years of you can,” McNeill said while referring to the video.

After the cake-cutting ceremony, Col. (Ret.) Edward W. Timmons Sr., state director, recognized employees for their many years of service and dedication. They were contract employees before they received benefits as state employees.

“To execute this difficult job, it’s a labor of love,” Timmons said. “It takes unique character, personality and passion.”
Timmons said the Tarheel ChalleNGe program is a lifesaver and believes cadets will be part of the next great generation, especially since this program helps to develop the character of at-risk youth.

“But you have to care and plant the seeds to prepare our next greatest generation for their time,” Timmons said. “We do our small part by continuing to reinforce the standard, the education, the discipline, and the seeds for them to continue to dream, believe and achieve.”