Challenge Updates

What I Want My Fellow Cadets to Know Past, Present, and Future

By Cadets Corner, News, Success Stories

My name is Jordhan Irvine. I was in Cycle 30 of the South Carolina Youth Challenge Academy. Before attending YCA, I was never really a troubled teen, I’d just gotten side tracked. My senior year in high school all my slacking and laziness caught up with me. In January of 2012 I found out I wasn’t going to be able to walk across the stage at graduation the end of the school year. I ended up being about 4.5 credits short of graduating after the classes I was taking and aside from taking an online class I still wouldn’t be caught up. The only other option I had was to go back to high school for a full year. I tried online school but it didn’t work out well. My mom found out about YCA on a radio infomercial, called and we had an interview.

I enjoyed myself at YCA and took everything from it that I could. It was truly hard being the oldest female in my cycle, but that’s what pushed me harder. Since I graduated from YCA on 12 June 2013, I have been doing very well for myself. Granted I did not get my GED while I was there, I studied and took it when I left then made my way to an Air National Guard Recruiter. Not even Six months after graduating from Youth Challenge I managed to enlist in the Air National Guard.

Currently today, I am still local in Columbia stationed at McEntire Joint National Guard Base. I still visit YCA often because I want to make sure that the cadets know that this program is extremely beneficial and if you’re here you might as well make the best out of the situation.

Youth Challenge truly prepared me for the real world without giving me too much to where I couldn’t learn on my own. They made you remember your cadet creed, which also teaches you how to live with values and standards. They somewhat break you down to build you back up and they also give you the tools all around to be successful in todays society and not just another statistic. They make sure that you understand what was wrong and how to fix it. One of the biggest things was respect at YCA. Not just respect for yourself but everyone. It makes you think about what respect really means and how it will help you later on in life.

What I want my fellow cadets to know past, present, and future; this program has a lot to offer. If you take from it what is given then you will see that 22.5 weeks isn’t that bad. You will gain so much from this program you will always remember the experiences, lessons, the relationships that you build with some fantastic people. Thank you Youth Challenge! I will never forget what you’ve done for me.

Cadet Irvine : Cycle 30


Published By: Marissa Vannall

I’m So Glad I Made It This Far

By Cadets Corner

View More Photos, Events, and Activities here South Carolina Youth Challenge Facebook

If I met a kid who dropped out of high school and did not know what to do with his life, the first thing I would do is recommend South Carolina Youth Challenge Academy.

Cadet Chavez

Cadet Chavez, A : Cycle 35- Ring Ceremony

This program is one of the most life changing things I have ever been in. The first time I saw my mother after being enrolled in South Carolina Youth Challenge, she said she did not see a trouble making teen instead she saw a young man. I don’t think I have ever been that proud in my life, when my mom told me that. I’m also glad I made it this far because if I would not have made it this far. I would be six feet deep.

I grew up in a single parent home. What threw my life off track was that I was the kid that loved trouble. I was what the court system called a statistic. One of the big problems I had was that I had to be the center of attention and that got me the wrong attention. I ended up get arrested 9 times in a 2 year span. I definitely got the attention but the wrong attention and from the wrong people.

So I started to change my life but I only changed for about 10 months before I got in trouble again. This time, other people were involved with me getting in trouble. I was in a stolen car with a friend and he ended up wrecking into another car head-on. We almost took the lives of 2 other people. But the trouble did not stop there, I ended up getting in trouble two more times. I decide the criminal life was not for me because I kept getting caught.

I found out about Youth Challenge through my probation officer. I looked Youth Challenge Academy up so I could learn a little bit more about it because at first, I did not like the idea of being at a place for 5 months with complete strangers. What got me really interested in Youth Challenge Academy is how much my mother was looking in to it. So I started to think if my mom wants me to go maybe this is the best for me, so I signed up and I came here.

South Carolina Youth Challenge has done an amazing amount of things for me. The number one thing is organization. When I was at home my room was a mess. You could not find a bright neon sign flashing in the mess. So when I got here I thought I could do what I wanted. The sergeants helped me change that. I also had a problem with lying to try and get out of trouble. Sometimes it worked! When I got here I tried to do it but the sergeants caught on to it. I learned quickly that I have to break that habit. I also learned that the sergeants are here as a life coach. They are here to break you down and build you up into a better person. It’s all about tough love here with the sergeants. They also give you life lessons that will help you get out of the court system, help you go further in life, and help you achieve your goals.

I also learned another important life trait called responsibility. I never knew how important responsibility was until I started to learn the trait. Discipline is also another major life skill that Youth Challenge Academy has taught me. Without discipline you basically have no self-control or manners. If you go to a job interview and you walk in with your pants sagging and looking some type of way, do you think they will hire you? No, because you have no discipline or self-respect.

Also, South Carolina Youth Challenge Academy helps you in every single way possible to obtain your GED. They have GED books in the dorm, they have teachers to help you, and they give tutoring if you still don’t understand it. The only way you won’t obtain your GED is if you don’t try. They offer so many certifications like driver’s education (if you have your permit), 3D printing, and forklift. They also have sports teams to help you have even more fun while you are here. They also give you so many things to help you get your dream job.

South Carolina Youth Challenge also has a new program called Post Challenge where they send you to college for free! If you don’t like free college then there is something wrong. But to do any of these things you have to have good behavior. Everything you do here is based on your behavior and attitude.

I’ll probably look back in 20 or 30 years and think I’m glad I came to this program and completed it. I personally believe that every male and female that has dropped out of high school and if they are on a path to nowhere in their life need to come to South Carolina Youth Challenge Academy. When you leave here, you will look back at yourself and think, why I did I ever do some of the stupid things I did. I’m glad I changed and if I could go back and do it again and I would not change a thing about my stay at South Carolina Youth Challenge Academy. I also thank my mom and god for putting the staff in my life to keep me out of jail and out of the grave. – Cadet Chavez, A; Cycle 35 (3rd Platoon)

View More Photos, Events, and Activities here South Carolina Youth Challenge Facebook


Published By: Marissa Vannall

Feel At Peace with My Life

By Cadets Corner

To view more photos, activities, and events please click here: South Carolina Youth Challenge Facebook


Cadet Polanco, K; Cycle 35

Cadet Polanco, K; Cycle 35 $500 3D PrintingThinkLink Scholarship Recipient.

If I ever saw someone going through what I went through I would honestly probably cry. I never ever want anybody to struggle and to seem like they hit dead end. South Carolina Youth Challenge Academy gave me stability, and discipline. It made me feel like people actually cared about how I end up in life.

Before South Carolina Youth Challenge Academy I was a mess, like I literally was a mess. You couldn’t tell me anything! It was my life, I do what I want when I want. The worst part about it was I repeatedly broke my mother’s heart. You can’t even count on your fingers how many times I told her I was going to change and I didn’t. I even got on my knees and said I was but like every other teenager I was in love.

I was  young and dumb, young, dumb and in love. I thought he was the love of my life and that were going to be together forever. Of course, I never thought that he would put me in a situation that could have ended my life. April 24, 2015 worst day of my life. I remember so little but I get these terrible flashbacks that make me feel like only yesterday I got shot. It was about 5 o’clock the day before April 23 I was doing my thing hanging out smoking taking my usual 2-3 xanax when my boyfriend called me, there was going to be a smoke/chilling thing in red roof Hardeeville of course I went.

That’s all I remember from that day. Back to April 24th the morning off I remember calling my mom after getting shot she thought I was lying I don’t blame her though. I was like the boy who cried wolf to her. I remember being on the helicopter to savannah memorial and that’s it. Shortly after that I was scared to be around guns and I was scared to smoke I was just scared, so scared I slept with my parents for a few weeks like I said I never want to see anyone in a place so low like I was.

I can proudly say I’m clean and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been being in this program. Not once I said I wanted to go home and when I was home I was ready to come back. This is my home. These cadres mean something to me all of these 18 other girls mean something to me I love them and I want them all to succeed.

I recommend South Carolina Youth Challenge Academy because I honestly finally feel at peace with life and my mom is the proudest she’s ever been with me and that’s all I can ever ask for. So I highly suggest that you take some time away from all the smoking and drinking to realize you are someone in this world. You think 5 months is a lot, it’s really not. I’m already at week 22, time flys by so quickly and I feel so amazing being here.

They feed us 3 times a day plus a snack, school Monday through Thursday 8-3 to help us further our education, field trips on Fridays, mentor pass on weekends, sports, like doesn’t that sound so good?? Most importantly we march and we have a family day wouldn’t you love to see your parents cry? Tears of joy of course knowing that you’re finally doing something good in your life.

For me the journey doesn’t stop there. Imagine furthering your education. After receiving my G.E.D I plan to go to Aiken Technical College and continue my education and after Aiken I plan to have a happily ever after. Hopefully you open your eyes before something happens that can possibly end your life. I wish nothing but the best for you. – Cadet Polanco, K; Cycle 35.

To view more photos, activities, and events please click here: South Carolina Youth Challenge Facebook

Published By: Marissa Vannall

Cycle 35 Graduation Day

By Challenge Updates, Events, News, Success Stories

Cycle 35 Cadets graduated Decemeber 9,2015.

Cycle 35 Graduates, you made it. You had doubts, you fought to stay true to your plans of graduating. It was not easy, at times some of you wanted to give up, but you didn’t. All of you took advantage of all the opportunities available to you, even if you did not think you deserved it. Guess what? You all deserved it, you all deserved the second chance at success. This is only the beginning, if you can make it through this, YOU CAN make it through anything, you have the skills, the discipline, and you all know what right looks like. South Carolina Youth Challenge is here for you, once a cadet, always a cadet!

To view more photos please click here: Cycle 35 Graduation Awards and Ceremony

To view the Graduation Ceremony Video please click here: Cycle 35 Graduation Video

By: Marissa Vannall



IMG_1487 IMG_1489 IMG_1490

A Letter of Gratitude

By Challenge Updates, News

By Cadet Wells, Jamesiaa

I would just like to thank you. I had the chance to leave last night, but I thought about it, I said to myself, “Okay if I go home, what would change about me,” and I said, “Nothing, because it’s like there’s no control when I’m home, so basically I do what I want, when I want.” I don’t want that mindset to continue like that. I would love for my mom to be happy for me and proud to show me off to everybody she deals with. Like I said yesterday I’m not used to getting sent away from home on a good note because I’ve been getting locked up since I was 14. It’s like I do good for a minute, and then I go back into my old ways , I want that to stop also because I’m on parole until I’m 20. It’s hard but I try to manage. My brother that used to go to this program convinced me to go. But at the same time it was either here or jail. I just wanted to write you a letter of appreciation and to let you know, I’ve change my mind about leaving campus because at the end of the day, I have to make the right decision. I took the time to think about what my life would be like if I don’t graduate from this program and risk the chance of not getting my high school diploma. So, thanks for the encouragement, believing in me, and not giving up on me. Thanks so very much.

What It Means To Be A Man

By Challenge Updates, News

By Cadet Moore, Desmon

What it means to be a man. I can’t really explain what a man is because I haven’t reached that stage in life yet but I can tell you what my idea of a man is. In my eyes a man is someone who can take care of his responsibilities. By me not having a father figure in my life I look up to my older brothers to teach me how to be a man. I realize if keep looking up to my brothers I’m not going to have a good life or probably end up dead. So it takes a real mean to realize his mistakes and fix them, no man is perfect. Becoming a man is not easy, it’s a challenge. A man is someone who can take care of his self and provide for his family when things get hard he does not give up, he keeps pushing forward no matter what the challenge is, he keeps his head up. He is respectful and loyal. I see why this is called the youth challenge academy. This is a challenge, getting up 04:30 and doing PT. I always have to do what I am told to do, whether I like it or not. This is to help me become a man and discipline me. It’s time for me to grow up. I regret a lot of stuff I did in my life but I can’t change the past. All I can do is learn from my mistakes.

Cadets From Cycle 28 Return to SCYCA

By Challenge Updates, News, Success Stories
From left to right: Joy Toliver, MSG Morris, Seaman Ansuh, CSM Parker, Petty Officer Daniels, 1SG Solomon, MSG Stewart

From left to right: Joy Toliver, MSG Morris, Seaman Ansuh, CSM Parker, Petty Officer Daniels, 1SG Solomon, MSG Stewart

By Marissa Vannall – Media Specialist/PAO for SCYCA

Seaman Israel Ansuh, 20, and Petty Officer Gerald Daniels, 19, are long time friends from Northeast Columbia, S.C., who enrolled in SCYCA for Cycle 28. At the time neither knew the other had enrolled before the start of cycle 28, each were surprised to see each other. Petty Officer Daniels was in 3rd Platoon, then known as the “Spartans,” and Seaman Ansuh was in 2nd Platoon, Deuce House.  Petty Officer Daniels said, “I was getting into a lot of trouble with school and law enforcement. I was doing things I didn’t need to be doing, involved with drugs and the streets.” He continued speaking about how the program gave him discipline, helped him focus, and kept him out of the streets. Seaman Ansuh agreed with Petty Officer Daniels and added, “I was trying to do something better with my life and this program gave me work ethic.” They continue to remain friends after the program and decided to join the Navy together.

Petty Officer Daniels is an Operation Specialist in the Navy and is stationed in Hawaii. He has traveled to several areas of the world to include Japan and Korea in a year’s time. Seaman Ansuh is a Logistics Specialist in the Navy reserves, stationed in Columbia.

Petty Officer Gerald Daniels had this to say to cycle 33, “Don’t quit, don’t ever quit. Take the G.E.D. and ASVAB seriously. Paying attention to detail is important and so is the military training. You can do it, I did it.” He continued to explain what he was like before he attended the program. He also spoke about the friends who continued down the wrong path, those who went to jail and of those killed because of the bad choices they continued to make. “I was a hustler before I came here; I changed my hustle from a bad hustle to a good hustle. I make great money and I now help my mom,” stated Petty Officer Daniels.

He recalled 1SG Solomon telling him that it starts with a small seed and depending on how you prepared the ground for that seed determines what grows from it. “You don’t want bad fruit to grow from that seed, you need to do what you need to in-order to get good fruit from that seed.” explained Petty Officer Daniels to the young men and women of cycle 33.

Seaman Ansuh continued to explain to the candidates of cycle 33, that they could do this, “It may seem hard, but it gets easier. It’s based off of how you listen and pay attention. The time will fly by if you do the right thing. This place changed my life and how I do things. It will do the same for you.”

Parent Experience Cycle 32

By Challenge Updates, News, Parents View

Parent Experience:  Ms. Catina Lamb

Cadet Jacob Ready and I heard about this program from his NJROTC teacher at Aiken High school. Jacob had been having a lot of problems the past year skipping school and not doing his work.  He had been getting into trouble at home as well. My family went everywhere trying to get my son help. We went to visit South Carolina Youth Challenge Academy and I thought this is the place for my son. I did not want him to end up at DJJ.  I am glad my son decided to take the Challenge and attend this academy. Jacob came home on February 28, 2014  for the first time since January 6, 2014.  I could really can see a change in him for the better. We visited his old school  and his teachers did not even recognize him. I know he’s got a little ways to go, I thank you all for everything that you all are doing for these boys and girls. I would recommend this place to anyone. I can say I’m a proud mom.

Cadet Jacob Ready

Cadet Jacob Ready

Cadet Experience: Volunteer Event

By Challenge Updates, Events, News

Palmetto Trail

The South Carolina Youth Challenge Academy has been given the opportunity to help restore the South Carolina Palmetto Trail.  When finished it will be a 425 mile recreational trail that goes through the state of South Carolina. The trail will begin in Oconee State Park upstate and end north of Charleston. The trail will have several connecting passages that will showcase the unique history and culture of South Carolina. The trail runs through Fort Jackson where the SCYCA cadets have been working hard to clear areas and make the passages visible.

Cadet Thompson

Cadet Thompson

Cade Thompson

3rd Platoon

Palmetto Trail Experience

Working on the Palmetto Trail was really fun. The best part about cleaning up the trail is having a sense of accomplishment after completing the project. Knowing that I am a part of helping the community makes me feel good. My group and I walked about 5 miles during our second volunteer trip on the trail. I did not think I could actually do it, but, I proved myself wrong. The group faced a couple of big obstacles on the trail. There were a bunch of branches blocking the trail and we had to work together to move them out the way. It took us about 15 minutes to complete that task. Moving trees were another big obstacle. The trees seem to be over 200 pounds! My group did not stop. We worked together as a team.

CYCLE 32 Cadet Miller

By Cadets Corner, Challenge Updates


My name is Cadet Miller and I’m from West Columbia, South Carolina. I have been in and out of DSS my whole life, running the streets, making bad choices, robbing and stealing. My life has always been rough and my father was never there for me. My mother was having a hard time taking care of me and my siblings by herself. I was impatient and I did not want to listen to my parent or anyone.  I felt like I needed to help my mother manager things around the house so I joined a gang to help her financially. That seem to only make things worse.

By the time I turned eighteen I realized, I had to do something different with my life. So I decided to take the Challenge and attend South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy. The academy has help me change my life by teaching me about self-discipline, integrity and life coping skills. I now have plans and goals for my life and  know what I need to do to achieve them. At South Carolina Youth Challenge Academy I enjoy doing military training I never thought I could do before. I never thought about the military before or the opportunities that I could gain by joining. This program is giving me the education I need to grow. I also participate in sports which, I love and working out every day.

Dream, Believe, Achieve


Cadet Bremer

By Cadets Corner, Challenge Updates

I came to South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy (SCYCA) to better my life and education.  I needed discipline and a positive attitude to achieve these goals. School has always been a big issue for me and the teachers  at SCYCA are encouraging me to do my work correctly. They have a great respect towards my education and dreams. The cadre helps you learn how to be self disciplined and  they give great advice.  So far after two months, I’ve noticed a change in my attitude.  I ‘am  truly lucky to be here at Youth ChalleNGe. My mother is so proud of me for entering this program. Youth ChalleNGe has given me a chance to better myself and receive the right education.  I’ve been searching for a great opportunity like (SCYCA) to help me  get my GED and help me reach my goals in life. I’m looking forward at graduate from the Youth ChalleNGe Academy.  I’m glad to make my family proud and I’m so happy to be here

Lost and Found By Malik Coates

By Cadets Corner

Lost and Found

I was a young man lost in the troubled streets

No where I could go, no where I could be.

Wandering around this world of sin.

Didn’t have any help, didnt have any friends

Searching for help and a place to be.

Youth ChalleNGe had a place for me.

Cadet Stroman

By Cadets Corner

South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy was a choice I made to help me become a better young adult. During the first two weeks it was hard going through the residential phase but it only showed me how the program works. I came to Youth ChalleNGe from Baltimore, Maryland to show my family members I need to change from the street life. Every morning I feel I want to go back home but I realized that I need to make this change to make my mother proud. It may not feel good always having someone on your back but it helps to show what you need to improve on. I’m now in YCA and I’m on of the students that gets a chance at taking a Midland Tech class to earn early credit hours. The opportunity to come here made me change and look back at the silly choices I have made. If you look at obtaining the GED as a goal I’m sure the program will go by faster. In the future if you want to experience a change like me then come to the South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy.

Cadet Dixon

By Cadets Corner

Hi my name is Cadet Dixon. During my first couple of weeks here I really wanted to go home and had thoughts of running away to be exact. The reason was because I left my family, my girlfriend who I love oh so very much and my friends .  Being here opened my eyes about my friends.  I have only been receiving letters from my family, girlfriend, and godfather . I figured out friends are not always going to be there for me. It’s the 8th week February 27, 2013, I missed my girlfriends birthday and also Valentine’s day. Those were the hardest days in here so far. Being here has  taught me a lot though.  It has taught me discipline and  how important home is and being with all your love ones. It would be better if we could have more passes home but I guess I got to deal with it. Me and my girlfriend have been planning our future through the mail and even though this program is tough this is the start of me being a new man. That way I can support my girlfriend, family and finally be able to say I am somebody. Through Jesus Christ everything is possible prayer

Cycle 30: Cadet Blandin

By Cadets Corner

My name is Jazmin Blandin. I am a CY 30 cadet at South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy (SCYCA). SCYCA is a life changing experience. I have met new individuals in my platoon and they are becoming family. You have to learn how to deal with your problems and focus on yourself. SCYCA has taught me skills in the area of education, teamwork, life coping skills, leadership, followership, physical fitness, and service to the community and citizenship. This program is meant for youth that really want a change in their lives. If I could give advice to anyone enrolling in the program I would tell them that, “if you come to SCYCA with a bad attitude you need to change it. The staff members cannot help you change, if you won’t put the effort into changing yourself”. I believe that no one can help you until you want to help yourself. SCYCA can keep you from taking the wrong path in life. Coming to SCYCA was the best decision I have ever made. This program is a great way to graduate with self confidence and earn your GED or high school diploma.

South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy allows the cadets to take field trips and participate in various activities throughout the cycle. I also like that I have the opportunity to get a class ring. I know my family is going to be proud of me. I’m going to be proud of myself when I walk across the stage at graduation. SCYCA is the place to be, the program might start off tough but in the long run you will realize that SCYCA is a wakeup call for what life is really like. If you are the type of person that does not take anything seriously, SCYCA will teach you about life. This program will help you make positive changes in your life. South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe teaches that you can do anything, if you set your mind to it.
1st Platoon
Cadet Blandin

Graduate Cadet Roberts Interview

By Cadets Corner, Success Stories

Ms. Sumbry: Tell me about yourself and why you decide to come to the South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy (SCYCA)?

Cadet Roberts: I graduated a cycle ago and  I felt like SCYCA was the program for me. SCYCA  has benefited me, by helping me become a man and helping me get into college.

Ms. Sumbry: Did SCYCA help you change your life?

Cadet Roberts: South Carolina Youth Challenge changed my life in so many ways. I am a better person than I was before I came. SCYCA help me change my future into a positive one. I am becoming a more discipline, respectful young man. SCYCA helped me with some personal things like getting off of probation and made me take responsibility for my own mistakes.

Ms. Sumbry:  What are your future plans?

Cadet Roberts: My future plans are to get a job and go to Valdosta State University and to become more involved with my family. 

I feel good about myself after taking the challenge. I have matured a lot, when I go out in public people see me as a different person. They see me as a young man not a little boy doing the same negative things he use to do. I have changed and South Carolina Youth Challenge made me who I am today. 

Thank You SCYCA