(WJET/WFXP/YourErie.com) — A military-style program for Pennsylvania at-risk teens graduated its first class on Dec. 16.

The Keystone State Challenge Academy (KSCA) graduated 18 cadets from a 22-week residential program. At the academy, cadets experience military structure. Instruction focuses on eight core components: academic excellence, physical fitness, leadership/followership, responsible citizenship, job skills, service to the community, health and hygiene, and life coping skills. Graduates can receive high school credits, credentials or a GED.

“This is a day of pride, celebration, and achievement,” said Maj. Gen. Mark Schindler, Pennsylvania’s adjutant general and head of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA). “It is not the end of the road, but only the beginning of a brighter future. We will be eagerly waiting to learn of your successes and how you continue to grow personally, academically and professionally.”

Following the residential program, graduating cadets receive a year-long mentorship.

The academy opened in July 2022 in Lebanon County and is a joint effort between the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and the National Guard Bureau. The Pennsylvania Department of Education consults on the project.

The program is open to 16- to 18-year-old male and female Pennsylvania residents who are failing to progress in high school. Applicants must be willing to be drug free, free of felony convictions, and voluntarily commit to the program. The program lasts 17 months — five months of residential training and one year of mentorship.

Applications are now being accepted for the academy’s second class of cadets that’s set to begin in January.

The National Guard Youth Challenge Program has 40 sites in 31 states and territories. The program is federally and state funded.