Investigation underway after teen dies at Tarheel ChalleNGE Academy

A cadet enrolled at the New London-based Tarheel ChalleNGe Youth Academy died overnight at the facility Wednesday, according to a North Carolina Air National Guard press release.

The cause of death is under investigation by the Stanly County Sheriff’s Office. The deceased is a minor, prohibiting release of personal information without parental/guardian consent.

When contacted about the investigation, Sheriff Jeff Crisco said “as of right now we aren’t going to make any comment or provide any information. This is an active┬áinvestigation pertaining to a juvenile.”

The academy staff and the North Carolina Air National Guard said they are cooperating fully with the law enforcement
investigation. No other information about this incident is known at this time.

The Stanly News and Press reached out to New London Deputy Director Brandy Mesimer, who was out of town and unavailable for comment.

“We are deeply saddened by the news of the death of a Tarheel Challenge Cadet,” said Maj. Gen. Todd Hunt, adjutant general of the North Carolina National Guard. “We extend our deepest sympathy to the family, friends, and fellow Cadets as we hold them firmly in our hearts and prayers during this
difficult time.”

The Tarheel ChalleNGe Youth program, sponsored by the North Carolina National Guard, has academies in Salemburg and New London. North Carolina teenagers ages 16-18 are eligible to enroll.

The current New London Youth Challenge class began Oct. 12, 2019 with 119 Cadets enrolled.

The Salemburg academy has been in operation since 1994, while the New London academy opened its doors in 2016. Combined, both programs have graduated more than 5,400 Cadets in the past 26 years.