ACA earns full accreditation as state-recognized school

Published 4:20 pm Tuesday, February 4, 2020

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Appalachian ChalleNGe Academy recently earned a full accreditation to be classified as a state-recognized school system. Assistant Director Colby French said the school earned the accreditation on Tuesday by Cognia, which is a non-profit organization that provides quality assurance for schools, school districts and education service providers.

“School accreditation as conferred by the Cognia Global Accreditation Commission provides the Appalachian ChalleNGe Academy a nationally recognized mark of quality for our school,” French said in a press release. “It demonstrates to our community our commitment to excellence, our openness to external review and feedback and our desire to be the best we can be on behalf of the students we serve.”

To earn Cognia accreditation, a school district also must implement a continuous process of improvement, and submit to internal and external review. Schools in good standing can maintain their accreditation for a five-year term. For more information about Cognia, go to

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ACA academic supervisor Erica Trammell said it also “changes the game” for many students.

“In terms of post-graduation from ACA for its seniors, it sets them on an employment track from graduation,” Trammell said. “We have classes through the community college and a fiber optic certification program that can help provide them with more secure placement upon leaving the academy.”

Trammell said the school administration also plans on expanding programs they currently offer and begin looking for more programs students could “certify them for employment within the average 12 weeks they’re here.”

“Traditionally, we defer to their high school to get an idea of what classes they want the students to take and it’s at the discretion of the school to accept the credits we offer,” she said.

Trammell added if the schools don’t accept the credits a student receives while at the ACA, “we’d be stuck,” but if it were to happen now “the challenge academy can graduate those students.”

“The Kentucky Department of Education always recognized us as an educational body, just not a traditional school,” she said. “There are a little over 40 challenge programs like us in the nation.”

She said they would like to “mimic” KDE’s high school requirements as much as possible, but the challenge is doing so within a 22-week window.

Trammell added the school plans on getting certified under KDE as a non-public school. After receiving the proper documents back toward the end of February, Trammell said the school will submit an application to the Kentucky Non-Public School Commission on April 15 in order to become an accredited school.


The Kentucky National Guard Appalachian ChalleNGe Academy (ACA), located in Harlan is a residential program, which offers adolescents an opportunity to change their future. Students who are failing to progress in a traditional school instructional setting or looking for a way to succeed through areas of adversity and hardship, work through a diverse collaboration of instruction to obtain self-discipline, leadership and responsibility while working to recover high school credits.

Led by professionals who emphasize discipline and education, this unique two part program teaches core academics and life skills, and encourages young people from all walks of life to become productive and accomplished in their chosen learning pathway.

In total, ACA is a 17-month program which consists of two phases.

During the five-month Residential Phase, students age 16-18 live on-site at ACA, attend school and receive opportunities for postsecondary education tracts, quasi-military standards and protocols, as well as individual mental health counseling all the while under 24-hour supervision.

While attending ACA, students are enrolled in credit recovery courses they need to recover from their referring high school, under the instruction of certified instructors. Class curriculum is coordinated individually though collaboration between ACA education administration and each student’s referring high school director of pupil personnel, guidance counselor or corresponding school administrator. Our academic staff works diligently with each student’s referring school to determine their path for academic success, and provides curriculum based progress reports throughout the residential phase of the program.

Courses are taken online through APEX Learning software. Additionally, Exceptional Learner Students who fall under IDEA guidelines are serviced through a partnership with the Harlan County School System, in compliance with Kentucky Department of Education, state and federal guidelines.

After graduation, students return home and enter the 12-month Post Residential Phase. During this phase, which is designed to help students continue in a positive direction, graduates are assisted by YCP case managers and community mentors to continue their education, enroll in college, begin job training, and find employment.

The Kentucky National Guard Youth Challenge Program encourages teamwork, personal growth and holistic character development through the defined standards of the program.