Derek Newland, Director of the Idaho Youth ChalleNGe Academy (IDYCA) of Pierce, spoke to Orofino Chamber members at the March 5 meeting. Derek was raised in Boise, graduating from Boise State in 1981. He had been retired from the National Guard for three weeks prior to accepting the opportunity to be the director at Pierce.
He has been working with Superintendent Bob Vian to get through the legislative process. There is a 75/25 Federal/State match for funding for the program. There are a total of 49 employees, all living in Pierce, Weippe and Orofino. All employees are state employees. Four additional positions will be open this summer. Currently there are five teachers and one principal. All of the teachers and cooks are employees of the school district. Bob Vian commented that for each position filled at the academy, another position opened up in the area from those leaving previous jobs. “The love of the staff is what makes this program so successful,” commented Newland.
“The first two weeks were difficult, as you can imagine, for these kids coming out of their environment, losing their cell phones, losing their iPads and their iPods, their computers and Facebook, their caffeine and nicotine, narcotic drugs, and then we’re going to throw them all together in a barracks and learn how to get along. It’s been quite a journey to see them transform and doing what they are doing,” said Newland. The cadets had no contact with anyone outside the academy for the first two weeks. After the initial two week period the Candidates were allowed a five minute phone call with their families.
Weekly competitions earn cadets additional phone time and other privileges. Students start out as Candidates. After the first two weeks they progress from Candidate to Cadet; then from Cadet to Cadet Airman, which is the same as a single stripe in the Air Force. From Airman they advance to Airman Basic and then on to Sr. Airman. Each progression in rank earns them more privileges.
Twenty-five percent of the students are girls. The students are divided into three groups: the Mountain Gems (girls), the Ax Men (boys age 17-18), and the Scouts (boys 16-17). The three groups do not interact.
Out of 99 beginning candidates, 83 are with the program today. It is a volunteer program that takes sacrifice and commitment on the part of the students. The students are working towards achieving 14 credits (which is one and a half years’ worth of credits) in five and a half months. The cadets are involved in academics from morning until evening five and six days a week with huge successes.
Upon graduation the community can help by doing mock interviews with the graduates for job positions. This does not mean that the employer is going to hire the student; they are just providing a real-life experience to help them prepare for the interview process.
The cadets are required to fulfill 40 hours of service to the community prior to graduation. They recently were able to assist at the VA Home in Lewiston and spend a day with the vets and play games with them, etc. They will be working with Dworshak and the Forest Service. The main goal is to get the students to a point where they will be able to graduate with their class and become contributing members of society.
The students will have mentors for a 12-month period after they graduate that they will work with on a weekly and monthly basis to make sure they are following the goals they have put together when they leave the academy. Youth ChalleNGe has had 120,000 graduates nationwide in the 20 years the program has been in existence.
Mr. Newland commented that “the community support is phenomenal. I would like to thank the community for looking at Facebook, watching the paper and keeping track.”
The academy does not provide the extracurricular activities that the other schools have for the cadets. An individual in Pierce has offered to provide music/choir to the cadets for a couple of hours once a week. “We are looking for someone that wants to teach art for a couple of hours once a week. I would love to find somebody that knows how to weld that has his own welding equipment to hold welding classes for some of the young men who have a real want and desire to do something like that,” said Mr. Newland.
The requirements to be a student at the academy are:
- Must be ages 16 to 18
- Must be a high school dropout or at risk student
- Must be a resident of Idaho
- Must have no felonies
- Must volunteer for the program
The program is free to the students.
Youth ChalleNGe is the only alternative school in Idaho that is required to have the same amount of class hours as public school students. Core classes are from Monday through Thursday and alternative classes (art, physical training, music, etc.) are from Friday through Sunday. Classes start after breakfast at 7:45-8 a.m. and go throughout the day and into the evening with lunch and dinner breaks. The cadets “hit the rack” at 9 p.m. and are up at 5 a.m. A whole school year is completed in a matter of weeks compared to months in the public school system. “Everything is earned-nothing is given,” said Newland.
Cadets at the meeting commented that they like the physical training and that the staff is very supportive; they don’t like the drama between the girls and that they have no contact with their families. Newland commented that there is just as much drama in the boys’ dorm as there is in the girls’.
Tabby Haskett, with the Clearwater Tribune, was introduced by Pam Jones. Tabby will be covering the Chamber meetings for the articles in the newspaper.
Jeff Jones introduced Jason Mechling as the new manager of Les Schwab.
CVH Ladies Night Out will be March 27 at 5:30 p,m. Free mammograms and pap smears will be offered for those who might not otherwise be able to afford them.
Bob Vian encouraged everyone to vote on the upcoming Maintenance and Operating Levy for Orofino Joint School District #171.
Amber Hanes-Miller will be hosting a Chamber After Hours on March 20 at 5:30 p.m. at the DMV building. This is an opportunity to introduce the various services that are available in the building. The community is welcome to bring the family.
The Chamber Auction is Friday, March 14. The doors will open at 5 p.m. at the Best Western. The theme is “Pot of Gold”. Contact Kim S-Browning at the Chamber office to donate items for the auction.
The Fun Run will be in June. Contact Kim or Monica Jones for more information.
The Discover guide from North Central Idaho Travel Association (NCITA) will be printed at the end of the week. Stephanie Deyo is working on the social media for NCITA. If anyone has pictures, events or information to promote the area, feel free to contact Stephanie.
The Orofino Chamber of Commerce Adventure Guides are here. Contact Kim at the Chamber office.
Matt Sartini reported that on the last legislative conference call a bill is going through regarding trauma centers. The closest trauma center to us is St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center, which means that some emergency services could completely bypass CVH as a care facility.
The April program will be presented by SCORE, a business mentorship program. The CBC Wilderness Society will present the program in June.
The Chamber of Commerce meets the first Wednesday of the month at noon at the Ponderosa in the banquet room.