Education More News |

Cadets graduate from Youth Challenge Academy

Saturday, Aug 24, 2013 6:17 PM
Last updated Sunday, Aug 25, 2013 2:08 AM
  • Follow Metro

After dropping out of high school and spending time in a youth detention center, Perry Puig never thought he’d don a cap and gown.

Back | Next
Graduates of Fort Gordon's Youth Challenge Academy take part in a ceremony at James Brown Arena. The program delivers lessons on academics and life skills to at-risk youth by using a military-style approach.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Graduates of Fort Gordon's Youth Challenge Academy take part in a ceremony at James Brown Arena. The program delivers lessons on academics and life skills to at-risk youth by using a military-style approach.

After completing rehabilitation in Marietta, Ga., Puig said his probation officer asked him to consider attending the Georgia National Guard’s Youth Chal­lenge Aca­demy at Fort Gordon, a program designed to provide at-risk youth with a military-style approach to teaching academics and life skills.

Puig, fascinated by the idea of a more structured approach to earning his GED diploma, said he entered the program on his own terms.

“I wanted to make my mom proud,” the 18-year-old said. “I didn’t have an education, but I’ve got my GED now.”

Puig was among 188 cadets graduating from Fort Gor­don’s 26th Youth Chal­lenge Aca­demy class who were honored at James Brown Arena on Saturday. The program began with more than 300 cadets.

When the cadets entered, the building erupted in cheers as members of the audience held homemade signs congratulating their loved ones.

“They’ve made it,” Director Jerome Lyles said before the ceremony. “A lot of challenges. A lot of struggles. But they came through it at the end. The ones that wanted to be here are graduating today.”

Graduates were presented with scholarships for their achievements in the program since March. Lyles gave special recognition to Kaleb Sloan for earning the highest scores by a cadet in the program’s 13-year history at Fort Gordon.

Army Col. Stephen Elle, the guest speaker, told cadets to remember the lessons they have learned.

“If you learn nothing else while you were here, I hope you learn that you can do anything that you set your mind to,” he said. “You can do it if you make it a goal and a priority and get it done.”

Elle talked about a boy he knew while growing up in Yankton, S.D., who dropped out of high school and seemed to lack meaning in his life.

That boy was Elle, who said that despite having a troubled past, he has managed to live a successful life as a soldier, a husband and a father to his four children. Elle went on to earn four degrees.

“Life is a do-it-yourself project,” he said. “The decisions and choices you make today build the house you live in tomorrow. So build yourself an awesome house.”

Puig said he plans to attend college so he can join the military as an officer, though he hasn’t decided which branch yet. He has his sights on the University of Georgia.

Puig said he leaves the Youth Challenge Academy with one message in mind.

“Don’t start something unless you can finish it,” he said. “That’s how I looked at it the whole way.”

Comments (5) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
bclicious 08/25/13 - 11:55 am
Congratulations, but good luck on:

This is always great, but I hope ya'll have a good plan lined up. There are fewer and fewer jobs; therefore, it is gonna be rough.

Especially since most of these teens come from a troubled past (criminal history), they will undoubtedly find more doors that are closed than open.

I know, I know; there are many of you that are saying, "I thought that those juvenile records are supposed to be sealed" Well, guess what? Some employers still manage to find out. Also, I have noticed that many employers have actually changed the verbiage on many of their job applications from, "Have you ever been convicted," to "Have you ever been arrested, charged, etc."

So, I am proud of these kids, but lets be a little realistic in this economy.

Oh, and for those of you saying that these kids could always just join the military, that won't work either. The military has completely revamped it's hiring standards, and there is a backlog of qualified individuals who are desperately trying to enter the military. Also, as of 2010, the military no longer accepts individuals with GEDs.

Sorry guys.

corgimom 08/25/13 - 06:36 pm
Arrests are public record,

Arrests are public record, and nothing ever disappears from the Internet.

Arrests are never sealed, it's only the adjudication of a case that can be sealed.

corgimom 08/25/13 - 06:39 pm
And I hope that somebody at

And I hope that somebody at YCA told the graduates not to put stupid stuff on FB bragging about their criminal activities, if they want to get a job.

It is amazing what some people will put on their FB pages- and then complain that nobody will hire them.

Karen Slater-McDaniel
Karen Slater-McDaniel 08/25/13 - 09:10 pm
No longer true for GED recipients ...

Sorry bclicious but you are incorrect about GEDs. That changed again in the Fall of 2011. Our son was an 2010 graduate of YCA in Ft. Stewart and was not able to join the military due to their GED policy. He was called up when the policy changed & went thru MEPS in September 2011 & BCT beginning April 2012. He is currently assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division in Ft. Bragg, NC.

bclicious 08/26/13 - 10:37 pm
Glad to Hear it Karen

Glad to hear that Karen.

I always thought it was BS that because someone had a GED, that they shouldn't be allowed an opportunity to serve their country.

Still; I think there will be very slim chances that any of these fine young men and women will be able to find a job.

Back to Top
Search Augusta jobs
Top headlines
As son was dying in hot car, man sent teen sex texts
BRUNSWICK, Ga. - A Georgia man swapped sexual text messages with a teenage girl while his toddler son sat forgotten and dying in the back seat of the father's sweltering SUV, his young texting ...