Texas ChalleNGe Academy welcomes new candidates

Story by: 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy

Posted: July 18, 2016

Trey Rocha, Texas ChalleNGe Academy-East commandant, speaks to TCA-E candidates in formation at the TCA-E campus in Eagle Lake, Texas, July 18, 2016. TCA is a Department of Defense program through the Texas National Guard's Joint Counterdrug Taskforce. (Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy)
Trey Rocha, Texas ChalleNGe Academy-East commandant, speaks to TCA-E candidates in formation at the TCA-E campus in Eagle Lake, Texas, July 18, 2016. TCA is a Department of Defense program through the Texas National Guard's Joint Counterdrug Task force. (Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Alicia Lacy)

EAGLE LAKE, Texas -- Lakesha Peterson can only describe the moment as bittersweet as tears streamed down her face while she watched her daughter board a bus to the Texas ChalleNGe Academy-East campus in Eagle Lake, Texas, July 17, 2016.

Peterson, like many other parents and family members said their goodbyes to their teens before the 16-18 year olds begin their 22-week journey in the military-style, education program at one of the two TCA campuses in either Eagle Lake or Sheffield.

For this iteration, collectively, the TCA campuses at Eagle Lake and Sheffield have an enrollment nearing 200 candidates, who, after completing the acclimation process, will become cadets and eventually graduates of the program.

Peterson, of Frisco, said she brought her daughter to the program to help her get her life back on tracks.

“She’s a good kid,” Peterson said. “She’s just bad.”

Peterson said she hopes her daughter is able to recover credits and earn enough credits to qualify to be a senior so she can finish her diploma.

Like Peterson, Kaylon Cole, from Fort Drum, New York, dropped his 18-year-old daughter to the program in hopes of her earning her high school diploma.
Cole said he looked up the program online and thought it would be a good fit for Asia Baker.

“(There’s a lot of stuff) that brings her here,” Cole said. “She was not making the grades in school and making poor choices. It’s only up from here.”

Cole said he hopes to see a change in his daughter when he sees her in 22 weeks and that she joins the Air Force.

“I hope to see a completely different person,” he said, “somebody who is respectful, obedient and follows instructions.”

While at the academy, cadets get exposure to the military training lifestyle, while engaging with Texas National Guard airmen and soldiers.

Texas Joint Counterdrug Taskforce airmen and soldiers work with the candidates during the process, mentoring them and assisting the cadre.

TCA is a Texas National Guard-sponsored educational program to help at-risk youth between 16 and 18 years old get their lives back on track. The program is completely voluntary and requires a 17 and a half-month commitment.

All cadets must not have any felony convictions and be drug free at the time of entry.

The academy is broken down into the 22-week residential phase and a 12-month, post-residential phase.

TCA focuses on eight core components – academic excellence, health and hygiene, job skills, leadership and followership, life-coping skills, physical fitness, responsible citizenship and service to the community.

In addition to their schoolwork, cadets have the opportunity to participate in other programs like archery, student council, student leadership positions and the Commandant’s Challenge. Students also perform community service every Saturday and have the option to attend church and participate in intramural sports on Sundays.

TCA is a Department of Defense-funded program and receives 25 percent funding from the state. The program is free to Texas residents.