At-Risk SC Teens Become Cadets

The SC national guard is taking at-risk teens across the state and giving them a summer camp experience like none other.

"I'm not a bad child, it's just that I made a lot of mistakes," Louis Morales said.

17-year-old Louis Morales should be in Charleston this summer waiting for the school year to start.

But, after falling behind in his studies he's found himself at McCrady Training Center, home to the state's national guard.

"I developed this little theory in my head where if I don't stop this I'm not going to be a better person in life," Morales said.

Morales didn't sign up for the armed forces.

He and 105 other teens from around the state are working to be graduates of the South Carolina Youth Challenge Academy.

"We rode through the guard gate and I'm like, 'Oh man, it's military here we go.' I thought they were like going to roll me on the floor and everything," Morales said.

"They come in raw, straight off the streets, want to do their own thing, things like that. And they have to adapt to the thought of listening and following instructions so that's the biggest transformation that they make," Command Sgt. Maj. Michael J. Parker said.

Parker heads up the four platoons and keeps everyone in line.

The candidates have completed the first phase of the academy, now they take on a new title.

"When you go from candidate to cadet it's like I'm ready to keep going and that's basically how it is. It's like a well-steamed engine, just keeps going and going and going," Morales said.

The entire program will take the cadets over a year to complete.

"We're trying to change their mindset, I mean you can teach someone how to do something, but if you can't teach them that this is why you should do it you're doing it for yourself to better yourself," Parker said.

"Whatever my mindset is, I know I can do it because they gave me the confidence to do anything I want to do if I put my mind right into it," Morales said.

At the completion of the program cadets will enroll back into school, attain their G-E-D or go into the work force.

For more information on the SC Youth Challenge you can go to their website at or visit their Facebook at


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