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Kuchler, Kenneth
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Katelen White joins ranks of Youth Challenge graduates

By JOHN MCGILL Glacier Reporter Editor, Jan 10, 2018

After 23 years in the Montana National Guard and another 14 as Outreach Coordinator at the Montana Youth Challenge, Ron Carroll says, "It’s the most rewarding job I’ve ever had, and it’s an educational program that’s built good partnerships with the school districts in Montana."

The Montana Youth Challenge Academy (MYCA) assists at-risk Montana youth in developing the skills and abilities necessary to become productive citizens through focusing upon the physical, emotional and educational needs of the youth within a highly structured environment.

"It’s a myth that it’s a program for ‘troubled kids,’" Carroll said. "It’s not. It’s a new path; it’s a privilege to apply. They can’t be on probation or have a felony."

Last week, Carroll had someone to reintroduce to Blackfeet Country, Katelen White. An 18-year-old from Browning, she applied in order to get away from her hometown. "And it worked," she said. "It felt really great to have a life experience that I never thought I’d have."’

Katelen entered into a well-thought-out program that features 22 weeks of supervised living and instruction at the University of Montana-Western in Dillon. The Academy’s focus is to assist youth, ages 16-18, by helping them to develop the academic and life skills necessary to be successful. MYCA is funded 75 percent by the federal government and 25 percent by the State of Montana. It is virtually cost-free to participants and their families.

During the 22-week residential phase, Academy participants focus on eight Core Components which include physical fitness, academic excellence, leadership-followership, responsible citizenship, service to community, life-coping skills, job skills and health and hygiene. Following graduation from the Residential Phase, students enter a 12-month Post Residential Phase in which they maintain ongoing contact with a volunteer mentor in their community who provides additional guidance and support.

"It’s about removing the distracters, getting enough sleep, good food and good tutoring," Carroll said. "Katelen White is a phenomenal young lady who did very well," he continued. "She was made squad leader in her platoon, and she’s got a great attitude. She’s willing to help others, and during Vocational Week, she teamed up with nine cadets at the local nursing home – she was one of 10 selected for the course. It’s an opportunity to look at the lives of others, and all cadets complete 40 hours of community service – walking dogs, highway cleanup, historic site maintenance and marching in a Color Guard."

"She did it all on her own," added Katelen’s grandfather and program mentor, Ron White. In the structure of the post-residential phase, each cadet is required to have a local mentor who communicates not only with the cadet, but who also communicates regularly with the Montana Youth Challenge. "We discussed the options – there was no pressure – it’s all her choice, but I’m 100 percent behind her in whatever she wants to do."

"It’s given me more opportunities in life," Katelen said, "knowing you’re doing the right thing and not sliding back."

While she’d initially thought to return to Browning and find work, Katelen now plans to find work in Great Falls and explore going to college there.

"I learned that you should never give up even in a hard situation and to get along with everyone," she said. "They teach us not to pick on each other; we’re all there for each other."

Katelen’s was the 37th class to graduate, and the MYCA is taking applications for Class 38. Facebook page and website


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