Florida Youth Challenge honors former cadets with memorial garden
Sgt. 1st Class Blair Heusdens
STARKE, Fla. (December 4, 2012) – The memorial garden at the Florida Youth Challenge Academy at Camp Blanding Joint Training Center serves not only as a quiet place for cadets to come to reflect, but also as a memorial to several cadets whose lives were changed by the academy but were taken soon thereafter.
“These youth have persevered in the face of adversity and extremely challenging odds,” said Col. Bill Beiswenger, Director of the Florida National Guard’s Directorate of Intelligence and Military Support. “It is fitting that we remember the young men and women who gave so much to overcome adversity and the setbacks dealt to them so early in their lives, but were denied the long-term means to put into practice what they learned at the academy.”
Since the academy’s first class in 2001, 18 graduates of the Florida Youth Challenge program have passed away due to various circumstances.
In the garden under a willow tree the students have named “Windy” and amidst dozens of roses donated to the program, 18 placards note the names of the cadets, their photo and the dates they attended the academy. Six new placards were added today to the existing memorial to honor those who’ve passed in recent years – Cadet Roxann Kelleher, Cadet Richard Key, Cadet Kyle Lynch, Cadet Trevon Miller, Cadet William Prince and Cadet Dominique Starks.
The garden is a project that was started by donations from the family of a cadet who passed away and is maintained by the cadets, volunteer master gardeners and the school’s agricultural teacher.
Approximately 164 cadets from Class 23 will graduate from the Florida National Guard’s Youth Challenge Academy, December 11, 2012.
During the ceremony, the following anecdotes were shared about each cadet:
Cadet Roxann Kelleher, Class 13: “Cadet Kelleher was a bright young lady that had a beautiful smile to go along with it. She was well-liked by all the cadets and determined to graduate and do something with her life.”
Cadet Richard Key, Class 7: “Cadet Key really enjoyed life and showed it every day through his smile and him just wanting to have fun any chance he got. He made it a point to come back to FLYCA on several occasions to let everyone know he was doing okay. I believe he just felt like this was part of his home.”
Cadet Kyle Lynch, Class 2: “While the program was still very new, with only having one class under the belt, Cadet Lynch came into the program with a sense of pride for our country and was already showing signs of having the self-discipline it would take to graduate, but more importantly to become a Soldier.”
Cadet Trevon Miller, Class 20: “Cadet Miller was full of life and had a very contagious smile. There weren’t too many days that went by here at FLYCA that he wasn’t helping someone else.”
Cadet William Prince, Class 20: “Cadet Prince was a young man that was determined to change his life and stay focused on the prize. While here, this young man grew like no other cadet in his class.”
Cadet Dominique Starks, Class 10: “Cadet Starks was truly a hardcore young man that wanted to fight the change of becoming a man. But by the time graduation came around, I believe he finally realized that everyone was trying to help him achieve what he was capable of accomplishing.”