156 graduate from Class 55 of National Guard’s Youth Challenge

156 graduated Saturday from the National Guard's Youth Challenge program.
Published: Nov. 21, 2021 at 12:41 AM CST
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CAMP SHELBY, Miss. (WDAM) - 156 students from across Mississippi have graduated from the latest class of the Mississippi National Guard’s Youth Challenge Academy.

Commencement ceremonies took place Saturday on the parade field at Camp Shelby for Class 55.

It began 18 weeks ago.

Youth Challenge is a military-style program that’s an alternative to traditional school.

It gives at-risk youth or other students a chance to receive high school diplomas or valuable job training.

“(The parade field is) a great place to have a graduation,” said Lt. Col. (Ret.) John B. Stringer, director of the Youth Challenge Academy. “It’s the second time in the history of the academy to graduate on this field. The first time was during the swine flu.”

“Emotionally, physically and mentally, (Youth Challenge) helped me, because outside of here, I wasn’t the same, but here, it’s worth it, it’s worth it to come through here,” said Storm Smith, a graduate from McComb.

“(Youth Challenge) meant a lot, it kept me from doing stuff I didn’t want to do, it kept me under control, staying out of trouble, patience and everything else,” said Jarvis Gibson, a graduate from Benoit.

Stringer says about a dozen cadets tested positive for COVID-19 during this academy.

He says they were quarantined and then allowed to return to finish the program.

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