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Montana Youth Challenge graduates 31st class

The Montana Youth Challenge Academy (MYCA) graduated 76 students Dec. 20 at the University of Montana Western campus.

MYCA2Justis Bierwaler delivers the commencement address at the Dec. 20 MYCA graduation.The graduation ceremony featured several distinguished speakers and guests. Montana Lt. Gov. Angela McClean and U.S. Senator John Walsh spoke at the event while Montana senator Debby Barrett and Montana representative Jeff Welbourn were in attendence along with Montana Western interim chancellor Roberta Evans.

The MYCA is a five and a half month long program similar to military bootcamp. The academy assists at-risk Montana youth in developing skills and abilities necessary to become productive citizens by using proven techniques of discipline and motivation to assist youth in turning their lives around.

While attending the academy, the students live on the campus of Montana Western.

The program started in 1999 and has graduated 2,298 students.

According to director Jan Rouse, the 31st MYCA class is "one of the most diverse classes in recent years taking into account socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, ethnicity, gender, large/small community and Native American reservation representation." 

Rouse said this class also has the highest number of students who will be returning to high school after graduation from the MYCA. 

"I am honored to have recently completed my 15th year with the academy having been here since its inception in 1999," said Rouse. "Each graduation is unique in its own way but all share the common theme of returning young men and women to their communities as productive and responsible contributors to the future of our state and nation."