Dec. 15, 2010

Hampton Roads Students to Graduate from Commonwealth ChalleNGe 

Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe release

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — More than 50 students from Hampton Roads will graduate from the most recent class of Commonwealth ChalleNGe, a free, statewide quasi-military program for at-risk teens who have dropped out of high school.

On Saturday, 54 local teens will be among 134 cadets who will graduate from Class 33, bringing the total of Virginia teens who have graduated from the program to 3,426 since it started in 1994.

Commonwealth ChalleNGe ( is the Virginia component of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program, which focuses on preparing at-risk teens and high school dropouts for the General Educational Development test and future employment, military or higher education opportunities.

“These students came to us seeking to make a change in their lives,” said Col. Thomas M. Early, director of Commonwealth ChalleNGe. “We’ve provided them with the guidance and direction they need to move forward. Each of them has a brighter future today than when they arrived.”

Graduates from Hampton Roads include (cadet, previous school):


  • Caytlin E. Downer, Western Branch HS
  • Ceasar M. Elliott, Deep Creek HS
  • Daniel R. Hamilton, Western Branch HS
  • Roger L. Lammie, Nansemond River HS
  • Marcus M. Lawrence, Deep Creek HS
  • Desiree N. Lightfood, Western Branch HS
  • Benjamin R. McCary, Salem HS
  • A’Kenshai O. Nowell, Deep Creek HS
  • Amber R. Richardson, Indian River HS
  • Trina D. Warren, Indian River HS
  • Brandon S. Worrell, Western Branch HS


  • Katon L. Davis, Bethel HS
  • Ronisha A. Evans, Kecoughtan HS
  • Kiara L. Mercado, William Penn (Pa.) HS

Newport News

  • Rayshawd D. Banks, Woodside HS
  • Derrick D. Waddler, Warwick HS


  • Antonio V. Austin, Ruffner MS
  • Larcell T. Bowser, Lake Taylor HS
  • Antwan L. Cherry, Maury HS
  • Chere’ V. Cox, Norview HS
  • Gabrielle A. Emerson, Lake Taylor HS
  • Keenam J. Flemming, Lake Taylor HS
  • Tanya R. Green, Madison Alternative
  • Reginald L. Harvey, Granby HS
  • Jamar L. Jamison, Norview HS
  • Bryant K. Parker, Norview HS
  • Sebastian S. Ratti-Angulo, Granby HS
  • Montel B. Scott, Madison Alternative
  • Nigel A. Thibodeaux, Lake Taylor HS
  • Jonathan T. Thornton, Granby HS
  • Dejon A. Tinson, Salem HS
  • Dezonta S. Wiggins, Granby HS


  • Julian A. Frazier, Churchland HS
  • Dexter K. Hirst, Wilson HS
  • Jasmine J. Jones, Wilson HS
  • Travis L. Kelly, Wilson HS
  • Isaac L. Stephens, Churchland HS
  • Donta M. Wesby, Chuchland HS


  • Dyamond A. Alicea, Nansemond River HS
  • Kerry Q. Barnes, Nash Central (N.C.) HS
  • DeAndra S. Bazemore, Lakeland HS
  • Jakeal A. Wilson, Muskegon Heights (Mich.) HS

Virginia Beach

  • Miya R. Coleman, Ocean Lakes HS
  • Kristin A. Hopkins, First Colonial HS
  • Shakir K. Lacy, Hopewell (N.C.) HS
  • Takeya L. Ladson, Bayside HS
  • Steven L. McClellan II, Landstown HS
  • Joshua S. McCloud, Green Run HS
  • Thomas Nesmith, Landstown HS
  • Rafael D. Pina, Tallwood HS
  • William B. Reints, Tallwood HS
  • Christian Q. Smith, Landstown HS
  • Blake F. Thrasher, Renaissance Academy
  • Lamount F. Townsend Jr., Tallwood HS

Offered free to at-risk teens ages 16 to 18 in Virginia, Commonwealth ChalleNGe is a statewide co-educational program with two components: a 22-week quasi-military residential phase followed by a 12-month post-residential phase.

During the 22-week residential phase, cadet studies are centered on the eight components of the program – academics, life-coping skills, work skills, citizenship, leadership, health education, physical fitness and community service. Cadets have the opportunity to take the GED test and establish a life plan – continued education, employment or military service – during this phase.

In the 12-month post-residential phase – a stage Class 33 now has reached – a mentor guides each of the cadets as they follow through with the life plan established during the residential phase.

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