'Military Style' School Helps Get At-Risk Kids On The Right Path

Posted at 7:12 PM, May 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-09 20:15:27-04

She didn't want to go to school, lacked focus for home school, and was defiant with her entire family.

Neveah Monroe, a former student of Franklin County High School, was headed for a path with seemingly little hope for success in adulthood, but when Monroe's family filed an Unruly Child charge in Tennessee court, the teen had a choice: go to juvenile detention or attend the TN Volunteer Challenge Academy (TNVCA).

This story started when Monroe chose to become a student at the Nashville school with a "military environment." TNVCA is aimed at teenagers 16 to 18 years old who have lost their way in life, according to recruiter Leah Blocker.

"What we're looking for are the kids who are truant, not going to school," said Blocker. "The kids who have dropped out of school. Those who have started making some bad decisions, maybe gotten a couple misdemeanors, some unruly charges. We're looking for them to be able to take that individual, apply some structure and discipline, and then see what they can become after that."

The program uses a strict and structured environment including military style workouts every morning, school from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. every day, and an emphasis on self-discipline.

Students focus on academics, life coping skills, job exploration and preparation, health and hygiene, and being a responsible community member and leader.

Those are skills Monroe has learned over her 17 weeks of a total 22-week semester.

"It's been really fun. I didn't think it would be this fun because my first day I was like, 'What did I do?'" said Monroe. "They teach you a lot. I think I've learned more here than if I wouldn't have come here."

Monroe said one of her favorite parts of the program is when the group participates in community service, volunteering at homeless shelters or helping out at Soles4Souls, a non-profit that provides shoes to underprivileged people around the world.

"I don't know where I would be if I wasn't here because the road I was going down was terrible," said Monroe.

TNVCA is a volunteer only program. The students need to have a desire to change themselves before they ever join the school.

"They need to recognize they need a change in their life," said Blocker.

Monroe recognizes the new attitude she's gained. With a new plan to pursue a degree in nursing, she's looking forward to returning home and telling other people she knows about how the program can help them.

Even when the five-month course is complete, the school prepares a mentor in the student's community to guide them for the next year, extending the programs impact to 17 months.