About Us

An opportunity like no other

About Us

The Appalachian Challenge Academy was opened in the summer of 2012 and is located in Harlan, Kentucky.  

Youth Challenge is a 22-week residential course that focuses on educational excellence coupled with full scale character development. Our program is designed to take 16 - 18 year old Kentuckians and give them the tools necessary to see their dreams become a reality.

We are a COST-FREE program. Meaning, applicants will incur no costs for participating in this program. This comes at an educational value of over $27,000. This is no small investment into the future. 

Birds-eye view of cadets and staff at the Kentucky History Museum


To intervene in and reclaim the lives of 16 - 18 year old Kentuckians and produce program graduates with the tools and skills necessary to succeed in society.

Cadets with ruck sacks participating in Carry The Fallen


Our program is a part of a nationwide program operated by the National Guard with partnerships between the Department of Labor and Department of Education

Cadets supporting each other as they run their PT test


Our program follows a quasi-military model meaning we take the best of the military structure and augment it to fit a civilian requirement.

The Program

Our program takes an in-depth approach to creating solutions for even the most complex of situations. Applicants come from all over Kentucky to participate in our program that has been proven time and again to be successful by government accountability audits and research studies. Compared to those that do not participate in our program, our graduates are better equippedfor success.

Cognia Seal


One of the largest pillars of our porgram is education. Our program focuses on progressing our applicants through their educational journey without the distractions of everyday life. Applicants are placed into a safe and controlled environment with qualified instructors who tend to their educational success. Our program offers a much more personal student to teacher ratio, allowing for the instructors to really work with each applicant on a closer basis. 

Credit Recovery

By and large, our program focuses mainly on credit recovery. We have a vast network of partnerships with Kentucky school districts that allow us to really dive into the educational needs of our applicants in order to create a personalized education plan that spells our clear and concise directions and milestones for our instructors to guide our applicants towards. Credit recovery allows our students to catch up in school where they would otherwise be failed or delayed. 

High School Diploma

We are accredited as a fully recognized high school. This allows us, under certain circumstances, to award our own high school diplomas just as a student would receive from the high school in which they originated. 


We also make possible the application of GED courses and testing. Certain criteria must be met in accordance with state law in order to participate in this path of the program.


One of our fundamental pillars is that of structure and discipline. Applicants are introduced into a structure that fosters leadership growth and empathy. Our cadets can achieve ranks and privileges that reward growth and positive traits. Cadets are taught the flow of chain of command that will prepare them for an understanding of authority that comes with everyday life. 

Cadets standing in formation
Cadet uniform being inspected by staff.

Character Development

We pride ourselves in character development. Our applicants are shown what good and bad traits look like and how to recognize them within themselves. Once applicants are able to recognize character traits, we teach them how to nurture the postive ones and eliminate the negative ones so as to create a better chance of success in life.

Career Exploration

Our program seeks to broaden the horizon for our applicants and expose them to a whole host of opportunities in the employment sector. Applicants attend workshops, field trips, conventions, and the like in order to possibly introduce them to a drem careeer they didn’t even know existed

Cadets at vocational school
cadet trying to navigate the obstacle course

Mental Fitness

Our cadets are encouraged to explore their limits and to push beyond their comfort zones. We expose our cadets to a hasot of situations that put them in a position to defeat fears and anxiety in order to show them what they are truly made of. We nurture an environment that focuses on the importance of mental toughness and resilience to adversity.


Our program teaches our applicants the importance of cooperation and teamwork. Many aspects of their adult lives will reveolve around being able to work well with others. From day one, cadets are led through team building exercises and placed into a close-knit group of peers. Cadets live together and compete together in order to earn an understanding of the positive outcomes when working as a team,

cadets showing their new rank after promotions

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