145 cadets graduate from Class-56 of National Guard Youth Challenge Academy

The Youth Challenge Academy graduated its 56th Class at a Saturday ceremony.
Published: Jun. 18, 2022 at 10:07 PM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - The National Guard’s Youth Challenge Academy graduated 145 Saturday from its latest class of cadets.

A commencement ceremony took place Saturday morning at the Forrest County Multi-Purpose Center for Class-56.

It was the first graduation at that facility since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I feel amazing, this place has given me so much opportunity and I’m happy I can change my life by completing this program,” said Breanna Cangelosi a graduate from Natchez.

Youth Challenge is a 22-week, military style course for at-risk youth and other students.

Cadets can get their GEDs or learn valuable job skills.

“(From YCA) I learned life skills, coping skills,” said De’Shaun Rudd, a graduate from Jackson. “It was worth it.”

Students were addressed by Maj. Thomas Mitchell.

Mitchell is a Youth Challenge graduate who’s now an operations officer for the 1st Battalion of Mississippi’s 155th Infantry Regiment.

Mitchell was a graduate of the academy’s 11th class in 1999.

“I still have life-long friends from 23 years ago who graduated with me who I still work with on a day-to-day basis and we’re all pretty tight,” Mitchell said. “We all have that same fundamental set of skills.”

More than 10,000 cadets have graduated from the Youth Challenge Academy since it was founded in 1994.

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