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NEWS | April 21, 2022

Kentucky Guard gives helicopter rides to ChalleNGe Academy cadets

By Sgt. 1st Class Benjamin Crane, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

 Over one hundred at-risk teenagers had the opportunity of lifetime to fly in a UH-60 Black Hawk as a part of their experience at both the Bluegrass ChalleNGe Academy and the Appalachian ChalleNGe Academy during their visit to Boone National Guard Center Apr. 20.

The youth challenge programs are a 22-week alternative education program for at-risk kids that gives them the opportunity to learn various skills, values and self-discipline.

Each year they partner with the Kentucky National Guard and allow the teens to get a ride over Frankfort in a military aircraft. Something these kids never imagined getting to do and are even scared to do.

“This is a great event that we have been doing annually, where the National Guard has sponsored it to give them opportunities to fly for the first time on a helicopter, said retired Col. Dee Briscoe, program director for both Academies. “A lot of them are afraid of heights but this gives them the chance to get rid of that fear. I have one Cadet right now who’s just scared to go up but I plan to take him with me. So again, that's what this day is all about-opportunity for them to come out and ride on their first helicopter ride.”

Despite their initial fears of flying in the helicopter, they came back with smiles and excitement once back on the ground.

“I’m not going to lie, that was very fun, said Darius Owens, 17, from Lexington. “I liked riding up in it but I especially liked when it dropped real fast; It was kind of like a fun roller coaster.”

For another cadet, he didn’t know what to expect with the day’s activities but was pleasantly surprised with the result.

I thought we were just going to do regular stuff (as far as tours go) I didn’t think it was going to be this fun,” said Joshua Chenault, 16, also from Lexington.

Most of the teens in the program are at-risk and find themselves lacking opportunity due to poor choices that they have made. But that’s where BCA or ACA steps in and is able to provide guidance and direction that will open the door to a brighter future for these individuals.

“The Challenge Program is a military quasi program,” said Briscoe. “It's not a boot camp but it's a program that provides structure, leadership, discipline, community service, personal hygiene and physical fitness; but more importantly, it's about academic excellence.”

He continued.

 “We have a school that is run by Eminence Independent School. We have quality teachers, we have a principal and they go to school so they don't miss out on their education. So when they finish, we have graduates that will graduate high school from Eminence.”

But the program goes beyond helping the students just for 22-weeks. After they finish up the 22-week program, they are given a mentor who helps guide them through the next year of their life to help make sure that they still are focusing on their goals and objectives.

The Bluegrass ChalleNGe Academy started in 1999 and is located on fort Knox, while the Appalachian ChalleNGe Academy was started in 2012 in Harlan County. Now there are 40 Youth Challenge programs across the country.

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