BATTLE CREEK, Mich. – The Michigan Youth Challenge Academy (MYCA) offers at-risk youth the chance to change their future for the better. The 22-week program faced its own obstacles during the recent class, but even COVID-19 could not stop class No. 42.“We had 113 people accomplish and fulfill the obligations for a high school education,” said Army Maj. Gen. Paul Rogers. “One hundred and twelve diplomas and one GED were earned – that’s incredible, that’s amazing, and that’s a new record for the youth academy.”Typically during the course, family members are allowed to visit their sons and daughters. With social distancing in force throughout the state, visitors were not allowed. But the academy made adjustments.“All visitors and non-essential personnel were prohibited from entering the MYCA and all parent and mentor visitations were canceled,” said Director Michael Gillum, MYCA. “However, cadets received extra-long phone calls and were able to FaceTime with their families on a regular basis.”The MYCA partnered with a local school to enable cadets to meet state requirements for a high school education.“Our education partner, Marshall Public Schools, truly saved the academic portion of our program,” said Anica Jankowski, deputy director, MYCA. “When the announcement was made that teachers were not going to be allowed to return to the building for an indefinite amount of time, we immediately loaded all the face-to-face courses into online learning, which allowed cadets to continue their coursework.“Through virtual technology, the teachers were allowed to see the cadets, check homework, answer questions, and have a more interactive learning experience,” said Jankowski.The academy, which graduated a record number of students, had its counseling department involved as well.“Counselors started using live events to conduct parent workshops,” said Jankowski. “These are usually conducted in conjunction with each of the five parent visitations that happen throughout the cycle.”Although the class was condensed from 22 weeks to 19 weeks, cadets were still able to meet core requirements, including community involvement.“Cadets averaged 20 hours of community services and some even participated in mask making or blanket crocheting, which resulted in 500 masks and 15 crocheted blankets made and donated to both the Battle Creek Federal Center and Veterans Affairs campus,” Jankowski said.Their contributions didn’t go unrecognized.“Despite the shorter time and the restrictions, you still achieved all your community service hours that you were expected to accomplish,” said Rogers, via a virtual graduation commencement speech. “I wish I could be there with you in person, but unfortunately with the COVID-19 and social distancing requirements, a virtual message was the safest option.”“I don’t want this to take away from how proud I am of everything you all have done,” said Rogers.Gillum said the Michigan program is one of only 10 of 42 Youth Challenge Programs across the country "that has been fortunate enough to operate generally undisrupted."“Cadets have already demonstrated flexibility and resiliency well above the normal threshold at the academy,” said Gillum. “An early graduation provides a tangible reward for their efforts and the adaptability they have displayed throughout this program despite the COVID-19 disruption.”For more National Guard news: http://www.nationalguard.mil/National Guard Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheNationalGuard/National Guard Twitter: https://twitter.com/usnationalguardHow the National Guard is helping: https://www.nationalguard.mil/coronavirus/Photos of the National Guard response: https://www.flickr.com/photos/thenationalguard/albums/72157713483827538Latest from the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/U.S. response: https://www.coronavirus.gov/White House-CDC response: https://www.coronavirus.gov/