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Kuchler, Kenneth
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Earning It

By Michelle Lovato, Lake County Leader

POLSON— Coral Sherman was on a self-induced track to nowhere when she dropped out of high school at age 16, but the St. Ignatius teenager chose to turn her life around, seek the help she needed and is now in position to excel as an adult. Sherman, now 18 of Polson, is a glowing example of how a little help from an outside program and a whole lot of personal desire to excel can blend together and create a life-altering journey.

Sherman was visiting Lake County’s courthouse last year when she picked up a brochure for the Montana Youth Academy, a quasi-military, group-setting program designed to help youth redirect their life-paths. "I wasn’t staying at home much," Sherman said. "I knew I had to do something different. I found this program brochure sitting in the Lake County Courthouse."  Sherman’s change of direction was fully her own. Her mother, Amber Irvine Dupuis of St. Ignatius said she was terrified for her daughter. "She (Sherman) was misled by her peers," Dupuis said. "When she left I tried to talk her out of it. I was in fear for her life."

But Dupuis’ reality was tempered with the knowledge that her daughter’s current state kept her in even more potential danger. "I was at wits’ end, Dupuis said. "She was sullen, depressed, frustrated with young adulthood."  Sherman had a spark of inspiration, however, and she jumped at the chance to change.

Sherman stands in front of a photo exhibit that showcases the activities at the MYC. Sherman plans to enter the National Guard and pursue a degree in psychology. (Montana Youth Challenge, photo)

"I knew there was more for me. I didn’t know how to get it," she said. "I wanted to get my life straight, and I weighed my options. It looked like the hardest thing to do. I really took that into consideration. I always took the easy road before but look where it got me."

So Sherman did the paperwork and performed the follow-up requirements necessary to participate.  Sherman’s mother dropped off her daughter at University of Montana Western in Dillon, the home of Montana Youth Academy. 

Fully funded by state and federal dollars, the Academy is one of 35 National Guard-sponsored programs across 27 states and the only academy located on a college campus. But the academy’s location makes life easier for cadets since during their 22-week program, students get the chance to pass a high school equivalency exam and take college classes. Sherman earned her high school equivalency through HiSET and two semester college credits for English and art.

But before she could attend class, earn her high school equivalency and college credits, Sherman had to make it through "acclamation," a two-week, mostly-silent period of time each recruit has to pass through before earning their way through the first phase of three phases scheduled for Sherman and her platoon-mates.

During her second phase, which is 20 weeks long, Sherman earned her way to the respected designation of 1st Sergeant. "It means you earned the privilege of marching at the front of your platoon’s formation," said Ron Carroll. "You become a leader among your peers." But that’s not all Sherman earned. She was chosen to attend a Tribal Forum trip attended by Montana Governor Bullock held in Helena where she was further chosen to talk about her journey of change in the Montana Youth Academy program. Sherman was chosen because she earned it, Carroll said. 

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