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First class graduates from Tennessee Volunteer Challenge Academy

Posted on Friday, December 29, 2017 at 2:30 pm

Nashville- In a landmark event for the Tennessee National Guard, Tennessee’s new Volunteer ChalleNGe Academy graduated its inaugural class on December 16, 2017.

The ceremony, held on the TNVCA campus in Nashville, honored 23 cadets who achieved their high school diploma, their HiSet certificate, or sufficient credits to go back and finish high school.

Governor Bill Haslam gave the commencement remarks, complementing the Cadets on their achievement and encouraging them to take what they gained while at the academy and build for the future.  The Cadets represent 16 Counties in Tennessee, from Shelby in the West to Sevier in the East.

The TNVCA is a program for Tennessee youth, administered by the National Guard Youth Challenge Program and the state of Tennessee, for 16-18 year olds who have dropped out of school or are at risk of becoming a dropout. The program gives them the opportunity to succeed outside of a traditional school setting by learning self-discipline, leadership and responsibility.

“I believe that this program has changed the life course of these students who were potentially headed down the wrong path,” said Maj. Gen. Max Haston, Tennessee’s Adjutant General.  “We are extremely proud of each one of these young Tennesseans.”

While the National Guard Youth Challenge Program was established in 1993, Tennessee didn’t start the program here until this year, with the first class starting this summer.

Following the 22 week school program, graduates are then paired with a personal mentor for one year to help with the transition into adulthood.  All 23 Cadets successfully completed the tasks and subtasks supporting the 8 Core Components of the Academy; Life Coping Skills, Academic Excellence, Leadership/Followership, Jobs Skills, Physical Fitness, Responsible Citizenship, Service to the Community and Health and Hygiene.  Also while at the Academy, six cadets took the ACT on Campus, and were registered for the TN Hope Scholarship.  All 23 cadets took the ASVAB.  One cadet plans to enlist in the Army and one is enlisting in the National Guard.

The program is free and voluntary. It is not boot camp or juvenile detention. Funding is provided by both the Federal and the State governments and is executed via a cooperative agreement between the Military Department of Tennessee and the National Guard Bureau.

The TNVCA is currently accepting applications for its next class, which begins January 14. For more information, visit, email, or call 629-888-5868.


Governor Bill Haslam addresses the Cadets at Tennessee Volunteer ChalleNGe Academy’s first graduation.  Twenty-three candidates completed the 22 week course.




The first class of the Tennessee Volunteer ChalleNGe Academy prepares for Graduation.  Twenty-three candidates completed the 22 week course.


Academy Director Gary Ensminger congratulates Lauren Jones of LaVergne during graduation ceremonies for the first class at Tennessee Volunteer ChalleNGe Academy in Nashville.