FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Tyre Smith dropped out of high school following the summer of his sophomore year. The 16-year-old turned to TarHeel ChalleNGe Academy to help get his life back on track.
TCA is a partnership between North Carolina and the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau. It is a 22-week program that gives high-school dropouts the opportunity to get a General Education Development diploma. The academy is located in Salemburg, N.C.

Smith, a Winston-Salem native, visited Fort Bragg in January as part of the Pre-Challenge Camp, which introduces TCA cadets to different aspects of military life.

Command Sgt. Maj. Ron Evans, of the 82nd Airborne Division Headquarters, said he was tasked with enabling training for this year's Pre-Challenge Camp.

One-hundred forty-five at-risk youth spent two weeks Jan. 12 to 22, on Fort Bragg receiving training and reinforcement in work ethics, values, life coping skills, physical fitness, teamwork, and leadership-building skills, Evans said.

While the cadets were on the installation, they maneuvered the rappel and jump towers, learned land navigation, team assault and leadership reaction skills.

The Pre-Challenge Camp ties into the TCA mission of improving the cadets life-coping skills, said Eddie Toler, TCA director.

Toler worked as a plans and operations officer for the North Carolina National Guard and helped create the TCA program in the 1990s.

The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe program has 34 ChalleNGe programs in 29 states and Puerto Rico, according to its Web site.

While on Fort Bragg, most cadets enjoyed tackling obstacle courses and working as a team with fellow cadets, he said.

"I learned not to give up and believe in myself, to keep pushing," Smith said. "We had to do it in a squad, as a team and it shows we leave nobody behind and complete the obstacle."

For 17-year-old Shanice Leach, tackling the jump tower was her favorite maneuver, she said. Adding that it gave her the confidence to move forward with her life.

A 10th-grade dropout, Leach previously attended TCA, but quit. She said she plans to graduate this time and to continue her education at a college or university in Fayetteville.

"You know when you need to change, so I came back here to get my life together," Leach said.
TCA, with the help of the installation, seems to point the cadets in the right direction.

"The things Fort Bragg offers is critical to getting these kids off to a good start," Toler said.

Page last updated Mon February 8th, 2010 at 11:24