For many weeks, cadets from Tarheel ChalleNGe Academy were seen in gray uniforms while providing service throughout the community and preparing for their futures. On Friday, more than 80 wore blue caps and gowns as they graduated in front of proud family members and supporters.
Before the turning of their tassels, Tanner Holder optimistically talked about the future with his classmates who faced hardships and challenges.
“The past is now irrelevant, the opportunities are present and the time to make your name throughout the world is just beyond that door,” said Holder, an academic honor graduate. “Today TCA has given us everything we need to make it through the door. All that is left for us is to turn the knob, open the door and take that everlasting step to the future.”
The celebration for the academy in Salemburg at the Sampson County Exposition Center, concluded a 22-week in-residence program organized by North Carolina’s National Guard. It includes academics and physical training aimed a reclaiming troubled high school dropouts and giving them life skills to be productive citizen. Cadets were enrolled in a GED diploma program during the academy.
“Don’t let the pessimist tell you that you can not do something, it’s rudimentary, ” Holder said while continuing his speech. “Instead be an optimist. Make your future distinctive …
As the commencement speaker, retired Brig. Gen. Arnold Gordon-Bray told the 88 graduates in Class 46 that they were not quitters. While giving words of encouragement, the commencement speaker described life as a “dash.”
“All that we do between birth and death is considered the dash, ” Gordon-Bray said. “Within your life, the dash, you don’t have complete control of what happens to you. But you have 100 percent control of how you respond.”
Prior to this academy, 22 weeks ago, Gordon-Bray said the candidates allowed events in life to dictate their actions.
“But with the help of you in this audience, they made adjustments so they could improve themselves and enter the doors of the academy,” Gordon-Bray. “Ladies and gentlemen, the people here in front of you have decided that their going to take control of their dash.”
He continued said the graduates are going to make new history, before praising them for academics, job skill training, financial management, physical training and community service, which included more than 7,500 hours as a class. After the graduation, cadets will participate in a one-year mentoring process.
Prior to the commencement, a banquet was held Wednesday to award many cadets for their contributions in the program. During the Friday event, Matthew I. Defranco-Colson earned the Gerald A. Rudisill Jr. Leadership award and the Directors award went to Kenyon T. Pelzer, Cadet Corps Commander.
Retired Col. Edward W. Timmons, director of Tarheel ChalleNGe Academy, said he was proud of the graduates and their efforts within the last five months. While giving many words of motivation, he reminded them to strive and to not be afraid of failure.
“A strong person picks themselves up, learns from their mistakes, avoids repeating the same mistake and moves on,” Timmons said.
He reminded the cadets to stay focused on their goals and that graduation is not the finish line.
“Hopefully, you’ll reflect on the thing you learned during the past 22 weeks and instill them in your future endeavors,” Timmons said. “Always dream, believe and achieve.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.