Teen's life saved through Discovery ChalleNGe Academy program

A military school in Lathrop gives troubled students a second chance.

"At the end of that road, it's either prison or death."

These are the types of paths a few of the teenagers at Discovery ChalleNGe Academy were headed towards before entering the program.

The California National Guard's Discovery ChalleNGe Academy is partnered with the San Joaquin County Office of Education (SJCOE) for youth 16 and 18-years-old who either dropped out of high school, at-risk of dropping out or mainly who have deficiency in school credits.

There are three different locations across California and 40 academies like it nation-wide. 

One of the 100 or so cadets at the first ever location in Northern California, in the San Joaquin valley, is 16-year-old Jose Gloria. 

Gloria, a South Sacramento native, will be entering his senior year of high school after graduating the program on June 17. 

With all of the success he's seen since being in the academy, the road to this point was a long one to endure.

During Gloria's freshman year of high school he was having family problems and didn't like being home due to those issues.

"Me and my mom just didn't click and it just added on," said Gloria.

Coupled with his home life, he wasn't doing well in school because he was ditching most of the time.

"I wouldn't go to school because off smoking weed I was too tired to wake up early...so I would always be ditching," said Gloria. "And days I would go I wouldn't learn anything, I'll just leave because it would be boring."

While things continued to build up at home, with his mother struggling at work, things finally hit its breaking point during the freshman year.

"I was stealing, I was selling stuff," he said. "I was just trying to get money for my mom so we could have rent and electricity bill money....in my head that was the only way [to do it]."

After getting caught, he was sent to a group home in Oakland for about two years.

"At the end of that bad road, it's either prison or death," he said. "So it made me realize and open my eyes that I have to get off this path, go to a new path and start my own way."

Following graduation from the group home, he had a heart-to-heart talk with his mother and made a decision that changed his life forever.

"I was behind like 25 credits and my mom brought Discovery Challenge up," said Gloria. "Her and I looked over it that night and that was the night I promised her I was gonna come and was going to graduate high school."

He always told himself that he owed it to his mom for all of the trouble he had caused and this was a great opportunity to do accomplish that goal.

Being in the academy has taught him a lot about dealing with the consequences of his actions and other lessons that he feels will help him for the rest of his life.

"One quote that they always say is practice don't make perfect but it makes permanent, so everyday we work on it until it's permanent," he said. "It taught me how to take care of my responsibilities and step up to the plate, [it's] time to grow up."

Some of these responsibilities within the academy include physical training (PT) everyday, cleaning, working in collaborative efforts and focus on school work.

"My GPA  before I came here was like a 1.8, now I'm a 3.7," said Gloria smiling.

He thought college was not a realistic route, but now he's thinking about college along with various other options he could do.

"I'm planning to," he said, when asked if he would be attending college. "I want to study Business Administration, I want to one day own my own group home."

"After I graduate I was thinking about going to Job Corp in Sacramento then start my career off," he added. "But at first if I go to Job Corp, I want to do construction. When I was younger I used to go with my uncles here in Stockton and they own their own construction company. I used to just help, I had a passion to it, I like building stuff with my hands."

When asked if military was something in his future, it wasn't the top option, but he didn't necessarily rule it out.

"I thought about it, it's not really for me....I told myself if I don't have a plan while I'm 20 or 21 and it looks like I'm not doing anything, then I will join the military," he said.

Not only has the academy helped spark ideas about future plans, but it's drastically improved his family life.

"My mom is going back to school and she's doing better for herself," he said. "Recently she just got another job, so she's getting on her feet while I'm in here getting on my feet."

He also said that even though his family grew up very poor, the one thing he always admired about his mother was that she never gave up and always tried to have something for him and his two younger brothers.

Since being away from his home in Sacramento he's realized he wants to set an example for his brothers.

"I have two little brothers and they look up to me and she always told me everything I do they'll try to follow," he said.

The graduation ceremony from the academy is approaching, his GPA has risen to a 3.7 average, he's taking the SAT and ACT, he's healthier and in shape. Looks like he's setting that example while also making his mother proud.

"My mom, she means the world to me, she's like the heart of the family," he said smiling proudly. "I'm not going to have her all of my life, so before she goes, I want to make her proud."

© 2017 KXTV-TV


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