Albemarle teen graduates from Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy

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ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- A young man from Earlysville is getting ready for the next phase of his life, which for him means going to college. However, his path to getting there wasn't always easy.

Cadet Nathan Harlow was an All-American kid, playing baseball and going fishing. But school was not that easy for him growing up. Harlow and his family decided the ChalleNGe Youth Academy was the next stop.

"Before ChalleNGe, I was going to school, I wasn't really doing that well, but it was school," said Harlow, a cadet at Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy.

"The Commonwealth ChalleNGe Youth Academy is a quasi-military-style alternative academy for 16- to 18-year-old, Virginia male and female teenagers," said Alex Dye, who is on the Admissions and Public Affairs staff for the academy. "It's part of the National Guard's initiative. We are aiming to reduce the dropout rate, that's really the goal, is to find those students who have fallen behind, it could be academically they're struggling, it could be behaviorally in their community. Whatever it may be, we get them back on track."

ChalleNGe became a fresh start for Harlow.

"It's helped me to become a better person, honestly. It helped me to be more honest, and it helped me learn a lot of very useful life skills as well," he said.

That's one of the missions of the academy overall.

"The goal is to get [students] back on track, and get either their GED or high school credits, then get them into a positive future," added Dye.

Harlow graduated from the Academy March 2 and plans to enroll in community college, before enlisting in the Marine Corps.

"I feel a really great sense of accomplishment, I feel like I actually did something with myself," said Harlow.

He is one of the many success stories since the program began in 1994.

The next ChalleNGe class is set to begin later this month, and it's still accepting students.

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