HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - More than 200 former high school drop-outs from across Mississippi completed their education by graduating from the Mississippi National Guard’s Youth Challenge Academy.
A graduation ceremony for Class 49 of Youth Challenge was held Saturday morning at the Forrest County Multi-Purpose Facility.
Youth Challenge is a 22-week, military style academy emphasizing discipline, physical fitness and academics. More than half of these graduates got their GED during their time at the academy.
Christyana Hines-Austin, a graduate from New Albany, MS, said the test was hard, but after a while you adapt to it.
“It was hard,” Hines-Austin said. “You had to adapt to where you were at, but after a while, you got used to it, routine and everything, it was good. I now have a path that I’m set to go on, so I feel pretty good about it.”
“I’m happy, I’m excited, I’m exuberant, Thomas A. Sharak, a graduate from Brookhaven, MS, said. "We’re finally free, 22 weeks, I’m happy.”
Class 50 of Youth Challenge starts in about four weeks.
The Keynote speech for today’s graduation was given by Major Gen. Janson D. Boyles, Mississippi Adjutant.
Boyles shook hands with each graduate, and spoke about the deployment of the Mississippi National Guard’s 1-55th Armored Brigade. That unit made up of more than four thousand soldiers, is past the halfway point of its 9-month deployment to Kuwait.
Gen. Boyles said the unit is continuing to distinguish itself.
“We expect them to begin flowing in and we expect everybody to be home by mid-April,” Boyles said. “So, that’s encouraging and they’ve had a great tour over there. They’re exceeding all expectations, so we’re proud of them, really proud of them and ready to get them home.”
Meanwhile, Boyles said the National Guard’s 1-84th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, headquartered in Laurel, just arrived this week in Kuwait for its nine-month deployment.