Columbus teen graduates from Montana Youth Challenge Academy

Marlo Pronovost
Thursday, January 24, 2019
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Courtesy photo
            Zacharia Copeland

Columbus youth Zacharia Copeland graduated from the 39th class of the Montana Youth Challenge Academy (MYCA) last month on the campus of the University of Montana Western in Dillon.

Copeland was among 106 cadets to graduate from the class.

Speakers at the graduation included Major General Matthew Quinn (the adjutant general of the Montana National Guard), University of Montana Western Chancellor Dr. Beth Weatherby and Montana Deputy Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Brock Tessman, according to a press release from MYCA.

Also in attendance were several state senators and representatives, and additional command staff from the Montana National Guard.


In 1993, Congress created the National Guard Youth Challenge Program, establishing a civilian youth opportunities program and authorized the Secretary of Defense to use the National Guard Bureau to conduct the program for at risk youth. The Montana Youth Challenge Academy is administered by the Montana Department of Military Affairs.

With a mantra of “Rise Up,” MYCA is a 2-phase, academic based program with a primary focus on assisting kids ages 16 to 18 by helping them develop the necessary academic and life skills required to be successful in life, according to the MYCA mission station.

It is a 22-week residential program geared to at-risk kids in which the following is focused: academic excellence, leadership-follower-ship, responsible citizenship, service to community, life-coping skills, job skills and health and hygiene.

Following graduation, cadets enter a 12-month post-residential phase in which they maintain ongoing contact with a volunteer mentor in their community who provides guidance and support.

The first class was held in 1999 and to date, 2,985 youths have graduated from the program, according to the MYCA website.

MYCA holds two sessions each year. There is no charge to the cadet or their family.