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Puerto Rico Guard Youth Program Develops Future Leaders

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Eliezer Soto,
  • 156th Wing

PONCE, Puerto Rico - More than 220 cadets with the Puerto Rico Youth ChalleNGe Academy graduated from the 22-week educational program with their high school diplomas and certificates in vocational or technical courses Sept. 15.

“The Youth ChalleNGe Academy Program has changed the lives of thousands of youths who — for one reason or another — abandoned their studies and saw in the Academy the opportunity to grow and develop, acquiring life skills and technical skills,” said Maj. Gen. Miguel Méndez, adjutant general of Puerto Rico. “I congratulate each of these 223 youths who have taken this important step toward their future. “

The academy has graduated more than 8,000 young cadets in 24 years. It provides 16- to 18-year-olds who are dropouts or at risk with discipline in a quasi-military environment by focusing on academic education, leadership, physical training, personal growth and community service.

“Our academy is focused on rescuing youths from becoming school deserters or who are at risk, transforming their lives with useful tools so that they may continue studying or to help them join the workforce,” said Matilde Almodóvar Acosta, Youth ChalleNGe Academy director.

“Family is an essential part of our training,” said Edgardo Soto, the academy’s public affairs and community coordinator. “We integrate parents through workshops about diverse topics while we train their children, which promotes a family and community environment in our academy that provides the necessary support to our cadets.”

Senior Airman Héctor López Rosa, a financial management technician with 156th Comptroller Flight, Puerto Rico Air National Guard, said the program had a positive impact on his son, Cadet Jan López.

“I am extremely happy and proud of him and know that great things are coming for him in the future,” he said.

Cadet López said he experienced frustrations at the beginning of the course but persevered, thanks to the support of his family and academy mentors.

“Being away from my family was my biggest challenge during this program, but it also motivated me to overcome any situation and complete the ultimate goal: graduating,” said Cadet López.