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The Town Talk - “Youth Challenge Program cadets strut their stuff before family, friends”

May 19, 2014

"Youth Challenge Program cadets strut their stuff before family, friends"

Written by: Melinda Martinez

PINEVILLE — Yolanda Prejean wrapped her arms around her son on Sunday and told him how proud she was of him.

Blake Mire, Prejean’s son, was one of nearly 260 cadets from the Louisiana National Guard’s Youth Challenge Program who participated in a pass-in-review ceremony at Camp Beauregard Sunday morning.

“Words can’t describe how proud I am of you,” Prejean told her son, a cadet in the Youth Challenge Program’s 5th Platoon. “He’s grown so much into a wonderful young man.”

Mire is one of the more than 250 cadets scheduled to graduate from the Youth Challenge Program on June 14. The formal pass-in-review ceremony is a military tradition usually conducted by professional soldiers during a change of command, but on Family Day, the YCP cadets organize, manage and lead the ceremony without assistance from staff members.

The ceremony is meant to demonstrate the skills and discipline the cadets have learned while enrolled in the program.

“We invited family and friends to see the cadets perform in a historically military tradition,” said Major Kenneth Paul, Youth Challenge Program director. “It proves to the family the discipline, the attention to detail, the motivation that the cadets have developed over the last 19 weeks.”

The cadets rehearsed for weeks leading up to Sunday’s ceremony. 

The Youth Challenge Program is designed to teach 16- to 18-year-olds the values, life skills, education and self-discipline needed to become productive citizens. The cadets are given meals, bedding, uniforms, classroom instruction and a chance to improve their lives at no cost.

Since 1994, more than 100,000 cadets have graduated nationwide, with more than 20,000 in Louisiana. Typically, Louisiana graduates approximately 1,400 teens a year from three locations: Camp Beauregard, Camp Minden near Bossier City and Gillis W. Long Center near Baton Rouge.

Col. Michael Borrel, the program’s education director, said Sunday’s ceremony gave the cadets an opportunity to shine in front of their loved ones.

“It’s to show families what they learned,” Borrel said. “Everyone can witness the discipline in them and how far they’ve gone to become leaders in 19 weeks.”

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