“To want to make a change is not easy at any age,” Mullen said. “To make that decision at your age is to be commended … you are going to be our leaders in the future.”
The chairman also had kind words for the National Guard. “We would not be the military we are, we would not be the nation we are and, indeed, New Jersey would not be the state that it is without the National Guard,” Mullen said.
Although the objective of ChalleNGe is to produce productive, high school graduates, many of the cadets go on to enlist in the military. In fact, 42 Soldiers from the New Jersey Army National Guard’s 50th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, which returned from Iraq in June, are ChalleNGe graduates.
Maj. Gen. Glenn K. Rieth, the Adjutant General, swore five of the ChalleNGe graduates into the National Guard at the ceremony.
Clive Hinds, the distinguished graduate of Class 30, said he’s considering joining the military as well, but first wants to attend college.
The 18-year-old from Hackensack, said the discipline instilled in the ChalleNGe program helped him channel the anger that once got him in trouble.
“This program really helped calm me down and focus,” Hinds said. “I can’t say enough good things about ChalleNGe and the cadre.”
His mother, Andrie Hinds, agreed. “My son is so patient now, I almost didn’t recognize him,” she said. “He always was a good boy. He just needed a push in the right direction. I’m so grateful he got it.”
For the ChalleNGe cadre, graduation day was the payoff for weeks of long days.
Staff Sgt. Gerard Tanner, one of the instructors, beamed as the new graduates crowded around him to shake his hand.
“These kids make me proud,” said Tanner, who is also an Army National Guard staff sergeant. “You’ve got some bright kids here. I guarantee you a lot of them are going to go on to do great things.