Graduate says it changed her life
Locals graduate youth academy, January 4, 2018, Ryan Welch/Havre Daily News
For some youth, traditional education just doesn't work, and that's where Montana Youth Challenge Academy comes in.
Three local youth in December completed the first stage of the academy, a program Marketing Coordinator Ron Carroll labels as an alternative education program.
Local students Alexus Flansburg, Mariah Matosich and Erik Cecena completed the initial 22 weeks on campus. They are now in the second phase of Montana Youth Challenge Academy, the year-long mentoring phase, during which cadets stay in monthly contact with the people they have chosen to hold them accountable and keep them motivated and on track.
Flansburg said the program changed her life.
Before enrolling, she had stopped going to school. She knew about the academy from family members who attended in the past, she said.
The first task was taking the Test of Adult Basic Education to see where she was academically.
"I was really scared," Flansburg said.
But that was before she realized she did well.
She said she had a rough start when she started at the academy.
"My hardest thing was authority," she said.
"That's ironic," Carroll said, "'cause she became the leader of her platoon."
Her mother, Audrey Flansburg, said she has seen the change in her daughter.
"She was really bratty before," Flansburg said.
Her daughter is now different, really happy, she added.
A major milestone, Alexus Flansburg said, was learning the importance of being denied instant gratification.
"I learned that I have to work hard to achieve things," she said, adding it's a lesson she will always carry with her.
She earned her nursing assistant certification, while at the academy, and she said she would like to apply that toward a job in home health care.
Carroll said the blame for students falling through cracks in traditional eduction isn't on the system or the students.
He said traditional education is "a cookie cutter approach. It isn't education or the student's fault. It's just not going to work."
Carroll said some youth need direction, structure - "they need to be inspired."
That's when the academy and its five-track education approach meets them and hopes to take get them to the next level, he said. The academy, established Sept. 1, 1999, is a two-phase, academic-based, quasi-military volunteer youth challenge program set up in Dillon on the University of Montana-Western campus. It aims to help youth 16 to 18 develop necessary academic and life skills.
Alexus Flansburg holds her new insignia after being named platoon leader at Montana Youth Challenge Academy in Dillon.
It is 75 percent federally and 25 percent state-funded and is one of 35 youth challenge programs in the country, and is funded by the National Guard and the Montana state government.
The program curriculum is the same for all of the cadets, but its pace is tailored to the cadets' individual needs, he said.
The acclimation phase, 11 weeks of structure building and education, is the first part of the first phase. The first 11 weeks are always the hardest for cadets, Carroll said.
The entire 22-week-long first phase comprises eight hours a day of school, an hour or so of daily physical training, three square meals a day and Saturday service to community.
Carroll said service to the community is not community service. It is not a punishment, but a chance for cadets to learn about giving back, to learn responsible citizenship, he said.
Once the first phase is complete, the graduates enter the mentoring phase.