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NEWS | June 21, 2024

CGYCA hosts Battle of the Beltway

By 2LT Christopher Cumberbatch and Master Sgt. Arthur M. Wright | D.C. National Guard

Cadets embraced the importance of teamwork and competition during Battle of the Beltway, June 18, at the Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy (CGYCA) in Laurel, Md. Teams representing the Maryland Freestate ChalleNGe Academy and the CGYCA competed in five activities for a title and bragging rights.

“Nobody understands being a National Guard Challenge program cadet better than these cadets,” said Philip Burk, director, Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy. “The Battle of the Beltway is about building cohesion between the two programs — our greatest resource is each other. They’re able to see they aren’t transitioning alone, and we’re adding healthy competition to their path of accomplishments.”

For Leo Brownlee, computer science specialist within the Freestate ChalleNGe Academy, the competition is a homecoming. The U.S. Army Reserve drill sergeant previously was a CGYCA cadre member.

“I sum up the significance of this competition to diversity,” Brownlee said. “In every situation you’re going to have to work with different people from different walks of life and perspectives. This will apply to them whether they chose to climb the ranks in the military or in civilian life.”

Cadets competed against each other in five categories to include an obstacle course, drill and ceremony, basketball, kickball, and physical fitness. The overarching theme of the competition was productive citizens will still face challenges and rivalries.

“We have some cadets who are already committed to enlist into the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Navy, some are heading to college and others are anticipating jobs,” Brownlee said.

For spectator Marcus Hunt, director, D.C. Government Operations-DCNG, the event elevated the significance of mentorship and guidance. Youth Challenge Academy’s empower cadets to embrace responsibility, while also instilling self-confidence, ambition, and increased opportunities through service to the community and leadership.

“Presence matters to youth,” Hunt said. “Their future is bright and it’s in their hands. If they maintain the integrity they have, the standards that they’re learning — everything else is there for the taking.”

Last year, hundreds of young people across the nation ended 2023 by graduating from Youth ChalleNGe Academy programs that provide discipline and education to set at-risk teenagers on a path to success. The mission is to intervene in and reclaim the lives of teens, producing program graduates with the values, life skills, education, and self-discipline necessary to succeed as productive citizens.

“Relationships and partnerships are essential for the growth of our cadets, and it starts right here,” Burke said.

For more information about the National Guard's Youth ChalleNGe Academy visit here

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