Frequently Asked Questions

1What is the Challenge Academy?

In 1993, Congress created the National Guard Youth Challenge Program, 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. (32 U.S. C. § 509) The Wisconsin Challenge Academy is administered by the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs. (Wis. Stat. §321.02(1(c))) The Challenge Academy, located on Fort McCoy, offers youth the opportunity to change the direction of their lives and develop the strength of character and life skills necessary to become successful, responsible citizens. The Program consists of a 5 ½ month-long Residential phase followed by a year-long Post-Residential phase

2Who can attend?

At-risk youth, ages 16 years 9 months but not yet 19, can volunteer to attend the Challenge Academy.  The youth must be:

  • One or more years behind in high school credits, or expelled or dropped out
  • A citizen or legal resident of the United States and a resident of Wisconsin
  • Not currently on parole or probation for anything other than juvenile status offenses
  • Not charged or convicted of a felony
  • Drug free
  • A volunteer
3How much does the Challenge Academy cost to attend?

There is no cost from the families for attendance to the Challenge Academy. The cost of the program is covered by State and Federal dollars. The families are required to provide a small list of personal items for the Cadet (t-shirts, socks, underwear, etc.)

4When do classes at the Challenge Academy begin?

The Challenge Academy holds two classes per year beginning in mid-January and mid-July.  Cadets graduate from the Academy in June and December.

5What is the curriculum?

The curriculum, developed by the National Guard Bureau, is based on the experiential learning model and is comprised of eight core components:

  • Academic Excellence
  • Physical Training
  • Job Skills
  • Service to Community
  • Health and Hygiene
  • Responsible Citizenship
  • Leadership/Followership
  • Life Coping Skills

Character Development is integrated and emphasized throughout the curriculum.  Cadets invest much of their time in developing a goal and task oriented plans for their futures (Post-Residential Action Plan or P-RAP).

Staff can also call 608-269-4605 to speak with our Admissions Department to schedule a tour of the Academy or a presentation by Challenge staff at your school district.

6Where are students at the Challenge Academy enrolled?

Students at the Challenge Academy remain enrolled in their own school districts of residence.  Cadets selected to attend the Challenge Academy are considered enrolled in the school district of residence for purposes of district equalization aid eligibility, special education responsibility, and revenue limit authority. (Wis. Stat. §321.02(1(c)) (Wis. Stat. §121.05(1)(a)13.)    School districts still receive aid for students while the student is at the Challenge Academy.  (Wis. Stat. §121.095)

7How is the Challenge Academy funded?

The program is 75% federally funded and 25% state funded.   The federal funding is through the Department of Defense. The state funding is through the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.

8If students volunteer to attend the Challenge Academy, is the school district charged?

By May of each year, the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs calculates the average cost per cadet based on the actual costs and reports that to the DPI.  The DPI reduces the June equalization aid payment to school districts that have cadets at the Challenge Academy by the cost per cadet, or by the district’s revenue limit per member, whichever is less.  (Wis. Stat. §121.095) Currently, the cost per cadet is about $4,800 so the reduction in the equalization aid payment to the school districts is about $4,800 per cadet.  The school district keeps the rest of the equalization aid payment.

9Can students be “sent” to the Challenge Academy?

The program, as established by Congress and administered by the National Guard and the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs, requires that students (future cadets) volunteer for the program.  Students cannot be “sent” by a school district through an IEP or other plan, or court ordered.  Schools can refer students who they believe would benefit from the program.

10What happens when cadets leave the program early?

Cadets are volunteers and may withdraw from the program.  Cadets may also be released from the program for behavioral or medical reasons.  Cadets who leave the program early receive an academic report detailing accomplishments at the Academy. This report is also sent to the school district of record.

11Do cadets graduate with a credential?

Cadets who successfully complete the GED exams and complete health, civics, career awareness and employability skills graduate with a High School Equivalency Diploma (HSED).  Historically, 87% of the cadets earn the HSED.  The Challenge Academy has a waiver to PI 5 allowing cadets to test at the age of 17 and receive the HSED.  The cadets also receive the Challenge Academy Certificate.

12Do cadets receive a transcript?

Cadets receive a Challenge Academy transcript from the Challenge Academy upon graduation.  The transcript is also sent to the school district of residence.

13Can cadets return to high school after graduating from the Challenge Academy?

Yes.  Students have the right to return to high school to earn a high school diploma even if they have earned a High School Equivalency Diploma.  Many cadets return to high school through GEDO #2.

14Does a high school need to have a GEDO #2 program to accept a cadet back into high school?

No.  All school districts can accept cadets back into high school.

15Can school boards award diplomas and/or credits for work accomplished at the Challenge Academy?

Yes.  School boards can award high school diplomas.  School boards can review the curriculum and award credits to students for many accomplishments:  math, English, science, social studies, character development, health, civics, employability skills, career awareness, physical training, service to community projects, leadership classes, followership classes, financial literacy, and mentoring.

16Why would a student return to high school to earn a diploma?

Once cadets change the direction of their lives, many want to return to high school to earn a diploma and graduate with their class.  Some cadets want to join the military and most branches require a high school diploma to enlist.

17Who has responsibility for special education students?

The local education agency responsible to ensure FAPE is the resident school district.  The Challenge Academy works with school districts and CESA 4 to meet the needs of the cadets.

18What accommodations are available to students?

Formal Accommodations

Informal Accommodations

  • Safe Housing
  • Fort McCoy
    • Fire, Rescue and Police within minutes
  • Three Nutritious Meals Daily
  • Based on needs of each cadet
  • Uniforms
    • Dress, Duty, Sleep
    • Summer
    • Winter
  • 24 Hour Supervision
  • 24 Hour Schedule with 8 hours of rest each night
  • Regular Routine
  • Regular sleep times
  • On-site Medic (Registered Nurse)
  • Counseling Staff
  • Alcohol Free
  • Drug Free
  • Tobacco Free
  • Technology Free (with supervised exceptions)
  • Physical Training based on ability
  • Small Academic Classes
    • Average 18 cadets in each academic class
  • Reminders and cues from staff
  • Staff model behavior
  • Repeat instructions
  • Give instructions in short steps
  • Time to regain a thinking state
  • Allow cadets to walk away from a situation
  • Counseling by staff
  • Assignment of a “Battle Buddy” a peer who models good behavior and provides support
  • Extra time to think
  • Stress and Anger Management classes
  • Social skills instruction
  • Clear expectations
  • Clear goals, task-oriented
  • Rules and consequences well-defined
  • Cadet Plans of Action
  • Individual/Small group instruction
  • Varied teaching approaches
  • Reminders to attend before giving instruction
  • Emphasize critical information
  • Give directions in small steps
  • Read directions
  • Give oral cues and prompts
  • Make projects
  • Map with words, pictures, phrases
  • Extra time for assignments and tests
  • Directed study
  • Modified assignments
  • Test taking strategies
  • Test anxiety strategies
  • Planning calendars
  • Preferential Seating
  • Lighting
  • Minimize distractions
  • Check for understanding
  • Teach study skills
  • Bi-weekly progress reports
  • Calculators
  • Calculator skills
  • Tests and assignments read aloud
  • Ear plugs
  • Small study rooms
  • Peer collaboration
  • Request counselor assistance
  • Peer tutoring
  • Military Officers tutoring as available
  • One GED Test per test day
19What do I do if I don’t have a copy of my son/daughter’s birth certificate or social security card to submit with the application?

Send the rest of the application packet in without those and immediately work on getting copies. Once you have them, submit them to your Admission’s Counselor.

20Why does my child have to be 16 years and 9 months old on the day you start?

State statute requires students to be 17 years old in order to begin GED testing. Our tests begin the 3rd month of the program. In order to be fair to everyone, we set the specific cut-off date.

21My son/daughter doesn’t have a mentor. How can I find one?

Submit the rest of the application while you continue to search for a mentor. We always suggest you contacting your local American Legions, VFWs, Lions Club, church, school, neighbors and friends. As long as they are not family, you can ask just about anyone that will meet the eligibility requirements and most importantly, be a good role model for your son or daughter. Your Admission’s Counselor can make suggestions to help you in the search, but they are not responsible for finding you a mentor.

22How long will it take to know if I have been accepted?

The application process can range from a few days to months. Application dates are taken into consideration in the acceptance process, meaning the earlier you apply the better. As part of the application process you will be required to attend an Orientation at Fort McCoy. Actual candidate selection will not begin until approximately one to two months from the start of the program.

23Can I fax my paperwork?

Mail is preferred, but yes you can fax paperwork to the Admission’s department. Original documents should also be provided. It is highly recommended that lengthy documents be sent via mail.

24Is there a waiting list if the class fills up before I get all my paperwork submitted?

Often we do have a waiting list. Many times applicants who have been accepted will change their minds or suddenly become ineligible. We will continue to fill those slots up to the start of class. We will also backfill any slots vacated by candidates who go home in the first 24 hours. Please remember, being on the waiting list also requires a completed file.