Local Youth Excels at MYCA
Written By Tyler Manning
At first, Hezekiah Follet, 17, didn’t want to go to the Montana Youth Challenge Academy. He said that his primary concern was that he would be the only one from Wolf Point to go to the academy and that he wouldn’t know anyone there. A semester at the Montana Youth Challenge Academy in Dillion can seem daunting at first to its’ high-school age group.
However, Follet’s mentor and teacher, Cookie Ragland, kept encouraging him to attend the academy by telling him more about it and what he would participate in while there. She convinced other students to go and Follet said that knowing other people that would be there helped encourage him to attend. Follet said that he initially wanted to go because he wanted to better himself and know what it feels like to complete something. He had no idea how much he would accomplish while he attended the academy.
Ron Carroll, Marketing Coordinator for the Montana Youth Challenge Academy, said that he likes to pick one students from each of Montana’s regions to try and highlight each semester. Carroll said that Follet was an easy choice from the spring 2017 semester because he performed exceptionally well while attending the academy. "He did a phenomenal job representing himself and his community," said Carroll.
Carroll said that while in attendance at the academy, Follet was the recipient of at least four distinct honors at the academy. The first was when Follet was granted permanent leadership about halfway through the semester. Carroll said that most cadets apply for this about halfway through the semester and a few are chosen for leadership positions. Follet was granted the position of platoon leader which put him in charge of his entire platoon of cadets. Carroll said that Follet was able to attain this position because he earned the respect of not only his fellow cadets but of the MYCA staff as well.
Follet also was chosen as Cadet of the Month while at the academy. Only four cadets are given this honor during the 22 week semester. Follet also attained the rank of senior cadet which is the highest rank that cadets can achieve while at MYCA. Finally, on his graduation day, Follet earned the challenge award which is based on all-around leadership during a cadet’s time at the academy. Follet was also a member of the MYCA’s color guard, meaning that he travelled multiple times to bear the colors and represent the academy.
Follet said that he believes the academy impacted him in a very positive way. First and foremost he said he feels like he completed something on his own for the first time in his life. He also said that he was a shy person when he first went to the academy and now he feels like a more outgoing person. "It made me a more strong and positive individual," said Follet. He also said one of his favorite things about being at the academy was being around a big group of people he knew and had things in common with.
Follet’s parents, Roger and Francine Bissonette, said that he is definitely a more independent and adult like individual after attending the academy. "He group up and is more respectful and adult like," said Francine Bissonette. Follet’s sibling, Roger Bissonette III, will be attending the academy next year after seeing the positive impact it had on his brother. Follet has also encouraged several other individuals he knows to attend the MYCA.
The Youth Challenge Academy program is sponsored by the United States National Guard. There are 35 academies in 27 states. Carroll said that Montana is really lucky to have an academy since many neighboring states do not. Usually the academies can be found on military bases but Montana is a special case being the only academy located on a college campus, University of Montana─Western.
Cookie Ragland, a Wolf Point High School teacher, is one of the mentors for this area and an important part of the MYCA program. Carroll said that the MYCA program greatly relies on its’ mentors as they are there to provide additional guidance and support to cadets. This guidance doesn’t even stop after a cadet’s graduation. Mentor’s maintain contact after graduation and help cadets execute their post-graduation plan that they form during the residential phase at MYCA. Carroll said that MYCA is always looking for mentors.
As far as Follet’s post-graduation plan goes; Follet said that he is going to finish his last year of high school next year and get his diploma. After that, though he is still mulling over his options, Follet said that he is interested in a military career, possibly in the United States Marine Corps.