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Kuchler, Kenneth
/ Categories: Cadets


December 26, 2017 | Daily Inter Lake

A Kalispell teen who hopes to one day start her own business is poised for success after honing her communication skills and getting some much-needed encouragement at the Montana Youth Challenge Academy. Ashlyn Graham was among 74 cadets who graduated Dec. 16 from the academy based at the University of Montana-Western in Dillon.

Graham entered the academy, she said, because she was making poor decisions but wanted to learn new skills that would help her change that. The Montana Youth Challenge Academy was deemed her best option to learn those skills.

Looking back at her time at the academy over the past 22 weeks, Graham said she feels she is a much better communicator now and has learned to open up more as well. Along with better communication skills, she also learned skills as a Certified Nurse Assistant, a two-week course that partners select cadets with health-care professionals at a local nursing and rehabilitation center in Dillon.

While at Youth Challenge, she also earned her high-school diploma equivalency degree, earning her a ribbon for academic excellence. At the point of enrollment in the academy, all cadets are required to have a volunteer mentor who agrees to be an additional resource for that cadet.

Mentoring is crucial to the success of the academy and helps keep the cadet focused on their original placement plan following graduation, said Ron Carroll of the Montana Youth Challenge Academy.

Graham’s mentor, Rachel Pemberton, said she hopes "to be able to walk beside her as she makes various life choices and encourage her in her dreams."

As a mentor she will assist Graham during the next 12 months of the post residential phase by maintaining contact with her and providing additional guidance and support.

Graham plans to attend Flathead Valley Community College and study business and accounting. She said she hopes to start her own business one day.

The academy’s focus is to assist youths ages 16 to 18 by helping them to develop the academic and life skills necessary to be successful. It is free to families and conducts two sessions each year, with the next session beginning Jan. 16.

For more information call 1-877-367-6927 or go to


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