Monday, June 09, 2008

Challenge Academy changing lives of troubled youth

From our story by Kate McGinty:

"In the chaos and uncertainty of tearful separations, as their shaved hair is dropping to the floor, the teens are given one order: Do not utter a word for two weeks.

Hours earlier, the teens had been dropped off at Fort McCoy, the military base they would call home for more than five months. They exchanged their clothing for camouflage pants and black lace-up boots. They picked up canteens to clip at their waist.

They kept only one item of nonmilitary clothing: a pair of tennis shoes for their rigorous workouts, including the 5:45 a.m. drills with jumping jacks, push-ups and stretches in the cold, dead grass between the barracks. And in those drills, if they didn't move quickly enough or push hard enough, they would be forced to stand still holding a weighty sandbag.

One father, as he dropped off his son, turned to him and said: "If you want to last, just keep your mouth shut and listen."

The prospect of joining this boot camp was so intimidating that, on the day they were dropped off, one teen refused to get out of the car and turned it around to return home.

But for the 158 teens who remained, they were prepping for tough lessons in academics, military life and sobriety.

They were about to swear in as cadets in the Wisconsin Challenge Academy's 20th class, which graduates Thursday."

This is the briefly told story of Cadet Jentz at Challenge Academy: what his days entail and his hope for change in his life.
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