Cadet Stories

Cadet Johnson class 25

    This is Iva Johnson; I graduated from Lincoln’s Challenge Academy with the class of 25-05. I’m contacting you as a sincere thank you for the doors of opportunity you have opened in my life. I’d also like to thank you for the recommendation. I have a great job with DNDC Telephone Company, as a Sales Assistant/ Office Manager. This is, thanks to my amazing boss, Mr. John Calderon Sr.


     I was 16 when I first arrived at LCA. I had just finished my sophomore year at the second high school I had to attend. After that I never planned on going back, I felt high school wasn’t for me. All the immaturity, teen pregnancy, drug abuse, and random acts of violence were starting to irritate me. I took a good look at my surroundings and knew I had to do something, fast. Now, apparently, my oldest sister/guardian had thought of this change before I could get any comment out. I came home one day and she asked me if I wanted to go to military school. I looked at her like she was speaking a different language, she had to be. Then she went further into description. I thought I was coming to LCA to get my GED, see boys, and get into shape. That was far from it. I took so much from my new life experience. I became reformed, I went home over pass one day and my sister was shocked. I remember it like a movie. We arrived at the Army Aviation Support Facility in my city; we were being informed of our dos and don’ts. My sister pulled up, I put my things into the trunk. She said “so Iva, do you like it?” I replied “yes ma’am”. She gave me this look like I had said the worst words ever. She said “what did you just say to me?”  I replied “ma’am?” She was shocked, my entire family was shocked. To them I was always this rude lil’ Iva.I didn’t know it but I had changed.


     I graduated with my GED, passing all my test with 500’s or better. I was on Color Guard and a Chaplin. After I graduated I got my first job bringing in around 400 dollars every two weeks. I’ve never stopped working since. I was able to start college at age 16; I then found out that I was pregnant. I finished as much school as possible, had my daughter, and never gave up. I can truly say, I am who I am today because of LCA. My recruiter, Ronnie Lee, is like my dad. My mentor and Mr. Lee’s wife, is like my mom, my daughter calls them papa and grandma.


   Director Thomas and all his staff are some of the most amazing people I’ve met. I love these people and do thank them for never giving up on me.


Iva Johnson

Sales Assistant/Office Manager


Cadet Hays class 19

Dear Mrs. Johnson; 

        I would like to take this time to do something that I should have done a long time ago but didn't have time to until now, and that is to thank you and all the rest of the staff at LCA for all your hard work and dedication to helping to better America.
 I graduated from the academy back in 02, and it motivated me enough to join the Marine Corps when I turned 17. I joined the Marine Corps in November of 04, graduated boot camp as a squad leader, and was meritoriously promoted to PFC, after infantry schooling I was sent to 3rd Battalion 5th Marines where I served as a  SAW gunner during Operation Phantom Fury, and on my second tour I was awarded the purple heart and a navy achievement medal with a combat distinguishing device, I was then meritoriously promoted to corporal.
I have just recently re-enlisted and am now living in Hawaii working for 3rd Marine regimental schools, 3 years non-deployable and loving every minute of it, and I owe it to god and LCA. Thank you so much for every thing you and the rest of the staff have done for me. God speed Semper Fi. 
                                                                                                                                         Cpl. Alston C. Hays


Cadet Rivera Class 27

MSGT Jackson, SGT Zufall, PO Ward, MSGT Norris;

Just wanted to write you guys to let you all know that I am doing well in my career.  If you don't know I am currently stationed at Ft Hood, TX.  It is nice for the most part, even though it can get hot.  I haven't been doing much, I am on vacation after this I am starting my training and preparing to go overseas.  I am due to deploy in June or July, it is a humbling thought but I am ready.  I just want to thank LCA for taking me in an giving me another chance.  If it wasn't for LCA and you guys I wouldn't be where I am today and serving my country.  MSGT Jackson always said, "Education is the key to success, success is education" and it's the truth.  I realize that more everyday.  I am thankful for him telling us to "get our mind right" and "no doubt about it!"  I have my mind right and am doing extremely well.  I also want to say to the staff to never get discouraged as you make such a difference in kids lives.  Thanks to LCA, one of my friends graduated and is now going into the service.  He was able to get out of the life style of drugs and being a dropout to getting his education and enlisting in the military.  Also I wanted to say how sorryI am about SPC Penrod, it was a big blow to me when I heard the news.  He was among one of the people who inspired me to join and do the best I could.  He told me after I graduated when he grabbed my hand and looked me in the eye, "Rivera make me proud and I know you will do well".  Then he hugged me and said good luck.  I am now more determined than ever to carry on his legacy and make him proud.  I will not fail in my mission overseas and will do my best like SPC Penrod told me.  I will see him in heaven one day.  Well, I think I am going to end this letter.  I just wanted to write real quick to see what's up and to let everyone know I am doing fine.  Thanks for everything.  (I am about to get promoted!)

PV2 Rivera

PS-MSGT Jackson, there is no doubt about it that I'm keeping my mind right.


Cadet Clark Class 22 of 04

Dear CSM Peter T. Thomas,

I would like to thank you and The Lincoln's Challenge Academy for training and teaching me at your academy. I am in my third week of Army Basic Combat Training. I am having a great time and doing my best. If it was not for yourself and the cadre staff at LCA I would probably be in jail or worse, but you changed my life and motivated me to live a better life and never quit or give up. I hope to come back and visit the academy after graduation and hopefully someday I might have the honor of working at the academy and helping people in the same way that you NCO's helped me.

PVT. Clark, Gary R
Class 22-04


Cadet Jackson Class 24 of 05

I am cadet Emmanuel Jackson from Team 6. I'm writing this letter because I wanted to inform Lincoln's Challenge that I do not have a job yet. I have an interview on July 26 for Fed X, also the school I'm attending classes doesn't start until August 29. I'm really trying to do something with my life. I'm not going to give up. I came too far for that. Being in Lincoln's Challenge Academy really changed my life. I see things different now and I also like to say I thank the whole Lincoln's Challenge staff for helping me change my life. I wrote this letter to let the Academy know that things is hard, but I'm not giving up.  Lincoln's Challenge is my second home. If it wasn't for this Academy I would be dead and that is a true fact, so thank you all for helping me.  Love Always LCA.


Cadet Galan Class 24 of 05

Before coming to LCA I was headed towards the wrong path. I was making the wrong choices, hanging aroung with the wrong people, cutting school, disrespecting my family among many other things. I heard about LCA through a previous cadet. He said it was a good program that will help change me, so I gave it a try. It was hard at first, but then you get use to being a cadet! I would at first hate waking up at 5:15am, standing for chow all during pre-challenge (sometimes during the cycle), facing the wall at the position of attention for a few minutes sometimes for my actions or my fellow cadets wrong doings etc.

I am proud to say I earned my G.E.D. and an ICCB Scholarship among 56 other cadets! I will like to give special thanks to Ms.Boyer(Instructor),Team 9 staff(Ssgt.Corbin,Sgt.Brown,Spc.Joseph,Spc.Belle,Spc.Dickerson)


Cadet Brannan Class 8 of 97

I grew up in a small town in Illinois... dreaming was not a part of my vocabulary. Being raised is a dirt poor envirment makes it a little hard to hold on to your dreams and aspirations but I held on to hope. After the challenge I went on to college where I earned my B.S. in aerospace engineering and sub level programming . I thought the challenge was hard but that changed when the challenge of life came to pass. I just wanted to tell all of the students at LCA that if you think that your can't do it your right, but if you think that you can... you will...and that makes you very right. God Bless you LCA... Don't just run the race...finish it 


Cadet Thomas

"The Way It Was and How I Saw It..."

   I was born on August 24, 1984 in Chicago, IL. I have two sisters, Larhonda Thomas and Laporscha Snipes. My mother (Jeanette Thomas) was a single parent who struggled to provide for my sisters and I. My father was a deadbeat who came around every blue moon.

   I grew up on the westside of Chicago and attended Austin Community Academy. Growing up in Chicago was hard but it had some cool points at times.

   I was known as a street thug and did not have very much respect for others or authority officials. I was staying out late, drinking, smoking, constantly getting locked up and giving my mom to many late night calls from the police. I worried my mom sick and she was afraid that one of those phone calls could be a death call. It came true on the night of Sep, 13 00. It was not a death call but it was close. I was shot in the chest while walking with one of my guys. It was gang related. I lost a lot of blood and my mom thought that I was not going to make it. I was released from the hospital in two days and my mom told me that God gave me a second chance in life.

   Since I was kicked out of school and my life was headed no where, my mom recommended that I attend the LCA / Lincoln's Challenge Academy. My sister attended the academy and she said that it would help me get a GED, keep me off the streets and give me a start towards a better future. My mom said it was up to me and I accepted the challenge.

   When I first arrived it was tough but I had to take care of my business. I was put on TM 8 and at that time, we had over 80 cadets. People were quitting left and right and soon we had 42 cadets, the Untouchables. I was giving a birthday party along with other cadets who birthdays were in Aug.

   As the days flew by more mail came and the more mail I got the more problems I got. I received a letter from my mom with an obituary of one of my guys in it. It contained an emotional letter that said, "most of my guys were being killed or locked up." I also had problems happening at home.

   I found myself very depressed, mad and started taking it out on other people. My team leaders talked to me as a friend and like a father I never had. I learned after awhile to control my problems and things became clearer for me. It was hard for me to adapt to my team and it was hard for them to adapt to.

   As the days flew by, we had many team problems, but we learned to act as a team, trust, respect and be there for one another. We became a chain and nothing can tear us apart.

   Making this choice of coming to the LCA was hard but it was the right choice and now I can see a future for me.

Cadet Thomas