LOUISVILLE, Ky. — An alternative school in Kentucky is on a mission to prove that anything is possible with structure and self-discipline.
That school is called the Bluegrass Challenge Academy. The 22 week program focuses on at-risk youth. On Dec. 17, Class 47 had 46 cadets graduate from the academy.
“This program is developed to help the youth, to get them back on track, to remove them from their environment and to give them structure, to give them discipline, to give them motivation that they can do it,” retired colonel and director of Bluegrass Challenge Academy, Detrick Briscoe said.
Benjamin O’Gara was one of those students looking to make a change.
“I was getting caught up in my own thing. I didn’t care what they said or what they wanted me to do. They were definitely upset with me about that,” O’Gara said. “They saw I was probably going down a wrong path.”
The academy teaches self-discipline, responsibility and leadership, all while working on high school credits. The hope is students return to their traditional school or become graduates of Eminence Independent High School.
O’Gara is proof the program works.
“If you go down a path, that’s bad choices, there’s going to be bad consequences, but when you start making better decisions and actually thinking about what you’re doing you get better results,” O’Gara said.
The current class completed 3,731 hours of community service, earned 420 high school credit hours, and increased their average test scores by 3.5 grade levels. Five cadets earned their high school diploma.
The work doesn’t stop after walking across the stage. Cadets will begin the 12 month post-residential program.
“The mentor is responsible for making sure they’re still on track when they leave our program and that mentor will follow them for the next 12 months,” Briscoe said.
It’s a process that hits home for Briscoe. “I was an at-risk kid, an at-risk kid, determined that they really don’t know where they’re going, they’re lost, they have no mentor, they’re environment is not helping them, they’re not productive so this program is for kids like me,” Briscoe said.
Since its founding in 1999, the Bluegrass Challenge Academy has graduated 3,900 students. Records show 80% of those graduates continued their education or gained employment after a year.