Char-Koosta News

The Official Publication of the Flathead Nation online

July 22, 2010

Arlee youth completes MYCA training

By Lailani Upham

Arlee student David Plant, 18, graduated with high honors from the Montana Youth Challenge Academy on June 19. (Lailani Upham photo)

ARLEE — He was told it would be hard; and that it was. With 150 cadets starting and only 80 completing, David Plant, 18, graduated with high honors from the Montana Youth Challenge Academy on June 19.

The Montana Youth Challenge Academy is a six-month program sponsored by the National Guard and the State of Montana that caters to the state’s at-risk youth. The training takes place on the campus of the University of Montana - Western in Dillon.

MYCA’s eight core components are: academic excellence, life coping skills, job skills, health and hygiene, responsible citizenship, service to community, leadership and followership, and physical fitness.

The program was launched in September 1999. The graduating class on June 19 was the 22nd class making a total of 1,484 MYCA graduates so far.

The first two weeks are known as the pre-challenge phase, where nobody is allowed to speak to another person; and just like military basic training character building, a young person is tested to the most intense discipline. “It sucked. The first two weeks of pre-challenge was frustrating. We were not allowed to talk and we had to ask permission to speak,” Plant expressed. Many mornings during this phase Plant said the platoon would have to stand in silence, in the cold for 45 minutes or so. “It was a weeding out period,” said his mom Aileen Plant, who also says she has seen a big change in her son.

The six-foot two-inch Plant took on the challenge with a true warrior spirit and in no time without his approval was selected for a leadership role in his platoon. He was promoted to platoon leader and also nominated and selected as class president. The perks were nice, but according to him, sometimes not worth it. “I had to deal with kids just like me,” he said. The kids gave him lip and tempers flared up left and right; however the key to remaining sane was to remain humble. “I tried not yell,” he said. The toughest part for Plant was that he wanted to just be left alone. But he came to grips with leadership roles and being left alone was a far-off wish.

The caliber of instructors was a plus according to Plant. Many of the Cadre Instructor sergeants from the Army Reserves, one was a former National Football League player and another was a sniper for the U.S. Marines.

The feeling of accomplishing something prestigious is what makes him proud he said.

The program does pay the cadets a little stipend to help pay for toiletries. One afternoon a few guys from Plant’s platoon were bored, he said, and decided to figure out their pay. Their wage came to three cents an hour.

The program requires the cadets to carry a one-year plan and a five-year plan. Plant’s one-year plan is to finish high school and qualify for the military and complete a marital arts certification. His five-year plan is cut and dry; he plans to join the military and qualify as a ranger.

His father, Albert Plant, said he thanks God for his son’s opportunity at MYCA. “He has a lot more opportunities, military, college, Job Corps and he has opt to go back to high school. There are so many options he has never thought of before,” his father said.

“His outlook on life is better. He has lots of opportunities, and it’s a big change from last year,” Aileen said.

David is the oldest of two other siblings; Al Plant, 15; and Naomi Plant, 11.

Plant is thankful for the opportunity to experience the leadership role, something he did not realize he had. When asked what he learned from the experience he said. “Make the system work for you, don’t work for the system.”

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