Cadets from the Capital Guardian Youth Challenge Academy, or CGYCA, have a new milestone to celebrate in 2024. Thirty-five members of the program graduated in a residential phase commencement ceremony at the University of the District of Columbia, Dec. 29. It’s the largest graduating class since Class 52 in 2019.
CGYCA is regarded as a premier program for at-risk teens. Since 2013, its mission is to intervene in and reclaim the lives of at-risk youth and ensure cadets complete curriculum to earn graduate status. Over the course of 22 weeks, cadets focused on eight core components: leadership/followership, service to community, job skills, academic excellence, responsible citizenship, life-coping skills, health & hygiene, and physical fitness.
“This is a class of many firsts — we’re breaking through barriers and we’re continuing to grow,” said Philip M. Burke, CGYCA program director. “We believe in the village approach. My staff is charged to support the cadets for a year and beyond."
Cadets of Class 61 also completed approx. 2,100 community service hours during the approximately 5-month program which culminated a rigorous and transformative journey.
“The graduating class has not only demonstrated resiliency and determination but is also left an intelligible mark throughout our communities through their commitment to service,” said Marcus L. Hunt, Director of the District of Columbia Operation, District of Columbia National Guard. “They are a testament to positively impacting the District of Columbia."
Located in Laurel, Md., the academy is a life intervention, dropout reintegration, and GED preparatory program, run by the District of Columbia National Guard in partnership with the Office of the State Superintendent of Education for the District of Columbia. Speakers during the commencement ceremony included Maj. Gen John C. Andonie. Commanding General (interim) of the District of Columbia National Guard, and Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz (ret.), Commanding General of the D.C. National Guard from 2008 to 2017.
“We celebrate achievement and potential that resides in each and every one of them,” said Maj. Gen. Andonie. “I want them to set goals for themselves and work with their mentors to keep moving forward. And keep dreaming big.”
During the program, Maj. Gen. Schwartz also recognized CGYCA scholarship recipients, some of whom earned scholarships to the University of the District of Columbia.
“I graduated from this university over four decades ago, but one of my goals is to make sure that there’s an opportunity for every graduate from this academy to meet their maximum possibility,” Maj. Gen. Schwartz said. “We will make sure that the door is open. This university has several doors — workforce development, community college, and a four-year institution, like these cadets are entering.”
For more information about the CGYCA or to enroll visit here.