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Alternative school in Dillon uses military-style discipline for at-risk students

Posted at 9:04 AM, Sep 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-27 11:04:58-04

DILLON - The Montana Youth Challenge Academy has been in Dillon for 21 years and helps teens at risk of failing out of school.

It uses a military-style discipline that organizers say helps its students, or cadets, learn to take control of their lives.

“They’re all here working towards their goals. They get three square meals a day, they know what’s going to happen every day, and that structure and that routine helps these kids grow, and that’s why we get a lot of growth in a short amount of time,” said Montana Youth Challenge Director Trent Gibson.

The 22-week session has shown an 84 percent success rate of cadets moving on to higher education or a profession.

“Parents say, you gave me my son or daughter back when I thought I lost them; that means a lot,” said Gibson.

Students say they’ve been changed by the program.

“I’m really driven toward accomplishing things, it makes me feel confident, it makes me feel good about myself,” said 16-year-old Helena Stulc.

In the chow hall, cadets get three square meals a day; this is part of creating a stable foundation for them to go along with the discipline and structure which helps them get through.

“I feel good. Every day is a good day to wake up in the morning, go to chow, and see the sun every day,” said 17-year-old Phillip Cole.