CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – 57 Cadets graduated from the Mountaineer Challenge Academy-South Friday morning.

Family and friends were welcomed to watch the ceremony held at Haddad Riverfront Park.
The Academy’s mission is to train at-risk youth to become contributing members of society. Their residential program provides Cadets with a safe, secure, and structured learning environment as well as hands-on career training programs. 

One of the graduating cadets, Nevaeh Gillison, says making it to graduation is something she never thought could happen. “Honestly at first I didn’t think I’d make it here, but now that it’s here, it’s today, I’m beyond excited, this place has pushed me to do things I never thought I’d be able to do before,” said Gillison.

Academy-South opened its doors on October 11, 2020, in Montgomery. Director Paul Perdue says it’s an amazing accomplishment for students to make it to graduation day. “For these kids, it’s a huge accomplishment. We’ve seen their peers come in and we’ve lost some along the way but these kids have made it through and persevered through 22 weeks. They’ve had a really regimented and structured environment the whole time they’ve been there they put the time in, they put the work in, and now they get the reward,” says Perdue.

The graduating class has completed more than 4,987 hours of community service and completed 42 different projects across the state.