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Teen finds focus through Wisconsin Challenge Academy

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CAMP DECORAH, Wis. (WXOW) - Senior Cadet Emalee Henricks said the Wisconsin Challenge Academy helped her focus on her academic and life goals.

Henrick said her parents divorce caused social anxiety that kept her from going to school.

"I felt like I had to be with my mom a lot so I tried to skip out as much as I could," Henrick said.

Henrick and the 81 other cadets participated in the outdoor survival portion of the four-month-long program meant to help 16 to 18-year-olds at risk for not graduating high school.

She decided to make a change and join the National Guard affiliated group to make up her lost credits, and she said she's now on track to graduate early.

"They really put themselves in a position to re-focus themselves for life and to get back on track," Wisconsin Challenge Academy Deputy Director Keith Krueger said.

The students quarantined and got tested for COVID-19 before the program began. Krueger said the staff tests regularly. Usually, the projects are more integrated with the community, but the pandemic safety concerns limited those interactions. The academy focused more on construction projects like helping improve Camp Decorah's bridge.

Krueger said about five to eight percent of the participants pursue further military experience.

"Coming here has really helped me become independent, a strong person, and self-confident," Henricks said, "Because nobody here judges because we've all been through something in life."

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Marcus Aarsvold

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