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Local Student Graduates Montana Youth Challenge Academy
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Local Student Graduates Montana Youth Challenge Academy

The Glasgow Courier | January 16, 2019

Glasgow High School senior Taylor Johnson was just one student of many who took part in the 39th Montana Youth Challenge Academy (MYCA) commencement ceremony on Dec. 15, 2018, on the University of Montana-Western campus in Dillion, Mont. The graduation ceremony was the end of a 22-week process where Johnson learned the academic and life skills necessary to not only be a better person but to also be successful in whichever life endeavor he chooses.

Johnson decided to enroll in the MYCA and start the 22-week program in July 2018, after being presented with a couple of different options. By his account, at the rate he was going and the choices he was making, he was not going to be able to graduate on time and desperately needed assistance with credit recovery. Sponsored by the National Guard, and funding provided at both the state and federal level making the program free for attendees. MYCA is a three-phase program comprised of acclimation, followed by a ceremony in which candidates become cadets. In the second phase, the cadets focus on their academic tracks and on physical fitness, while learning the core components of the program: academic excellence, leadership-fellowship, responsible citizenship, service to community, life-coping skills, job skills and health and hygiene. The goal of the second phase is to develop plans to achieve short-term goals while also applying life management skills cadets will be able to carry with them the rest of their lives.

During the program, youth stay in the dorms on the Montana-Western campus, eat at the campus dining hall, and have the opportunity to earn rewards for family visits. Youth also have to complete 40 hours of community service, which teaches them to give back. "It's not uncommon for students to go above the 40 hours," said Ron Carroll, the Marketing & Outreach Coordinator for MYCA. Johnson spent 20 of his hours building a park in the city of Dillon. "It was really satisfying putting together the equipment and spreading the mulch. Everyone came together, from the cadets to even the UM-Western football team helping out one day, to make this project happen," said Johnson. Participating in the community service taught Johnson the importance of giving back, working together as a team and be respectful, all key skills to have in order to move forward in life.

Johnson is currently in the third phase, mentoring, where he is able to transition back to real life, partake in his favorite sport of playing on the Ice Dawgs team and enjoy his senior year all the while also utilizing the skills he learned at MYCA. Under the mentorship of Mike Eliason, Johnson is able to develop a game-plan for life and ways to achieve those goals. One of those goals includes playing junior hockey in Bozeman for a few years, before transferring to Williston State for college and playing on their hockey team.

"I have seen a real change in him," said mom Desiree Johnson. "He has matured a lot since coming home from the program. He has really grown up as a person. He had the opportunity to develop great habits and routines to be successful. I now feel like I am a Mom to a young adult son." The skills T. Johnson has learned will make him an excellent candidate to a potential employer, which Johnson is currently seeking in order to raise funds before starting junior hockey. Seeing the results of T. Johnson participating in the program shows how committed the teachers and staff at MYCA are in guiding the youth participating in the program. According to Carroll, the teachers are recognized in the top one percent in the nation and truly work hard at connecting with the students. "It's really a great testament of what we do in 22 weeks to see the results in these kids," said Carroll.

If you or a loved one would like more information on MYCA, contact them by phone at 1-877-367-6927 or visit their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/mycaacademy.

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