Parent Stories

Sister of Kyle, Class 28-07

I am writing concerning the recent graduate, Kyle, from Spring 2007.  As Kyle's sister, I want to express how much this program has done both for Kyle as well as my family.  After several traumatic family-related experiences, my brother, who had just began adolescence, turned into someone I felt I did not know anymore.  He began stealing money, smoking marijuana, drinking alcohol, and participating in other illegal activities, all the while being only 14 or 15 years old.  This, clearly, was devastating to discover while still seeing him as my innocent baby brother.  While his personal and school-life was suffering our parents were going through a divorce of a 29-year marriage.  Therefore, our parents, in a sense, emotionally abandoned my brother and I.  Kyle began failing classes, frequently missed school, and continued his life surrounded by illegal activities. 

My mother and I tried researching every different resource to help Kyle.  Kyle refused to go on anti-depressants, lied to his therapist (thus making therapy pointless), and did not seem to want to change his behavior.  In addition, my parents could barely afford therapy, nonetheless a discipline camp!

I received a phone call from my mother when she discovered Lincoln's Challenge Academy.  An acquaintance had mentioned it to her and it sounded too good to be true!  I was perplexed that there was a camp to help students earn their GED, gain self-discipline, respect for themselves and others, participate in religious activities and volunteer work, athletic activities, weekly therapy sessions, have 24-hour supervision by outstanding role-models, and the abilithy to earn college credits.  My first question was, "How can we afford this?"  When my mother said that it was FREE through the government we were ecstatic!

My brother is now 16 years old, living at home.  He has his GED and is actually excited to be starting classes at a local community college and is constantly talking about his future.  I feel I can finally trust my brother again and we often stay up late and have in-depth conversations about what we have been through over the past few years and how it has changed us.  While there is an eight-year age difference between us, I oddly occasionally feel he gives me better advice than some of my adult friends!  I feel like I have my brother back again.  When I saw him graduate in his LCA uniform, I could see in his eyes that look of the "real" Kyle being back in my life.

I cannot describe how happy I am that we found this program.  I do not know what we would have done without finding this program.  He still has a long road ahead of him, but he is positive and motivated now and actualy values things he has in his life, instead of taking them for granted.  I have one question:  Where should I send a letter for the government to encourage their support of this program?  This, I believe, should be one of the first things people see when they open LCA's website.  Please feel free to share my story to government sponsors and/or other families. 

Thank you for all you do, and remember that while I am just one person from one family, LCA has affected my entire life.  The work you do at LCA is well worth it.  I wish I could donate more. My brother now has a chance to succeed in life and is enjoying quality time with his famly.  Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to help your wonderful program.



Father of Kyle Bumpus, Class 28-07

Kyle asked me to send you a picture of him in uniform for your Military Wall.  He just graduated Basic Training at Fort Knox and he is doing very well.  Kyle had a chance to talk with a Counselor from the Blue Grass Challenge in Kentucky.  They are going to have him talk to the cadets about how the Challenge helped him.

Thank you for everything you have done for him.


Steve Bumpus

Mother of Marc Gernon

  My son, Marc Gernon, graduated from Lincoln's Challenge in December of 1999. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Lincoln's Challenge and all of the staff that helped my son when no one or nothing else could.

   Marc is the youngest of six children. From the time he started school he always said he hated school and did not even try most of the time to get along with his teachers and do even a minimum of school work. By the time he reached junior high school he was known as the class clown and was getting into all sorts of trouble. When he was 16 he was put on probation for underage drinking. The police brought him home several times for being out too late, drinking, and assorted other problems. Each time he got in trouble we were in court and his probation was extended.

   By this time he would not even go to school and we tried counseling and he also went to a 13 week out patient program for substance abuse. No matter what we tried nothing seemed to work. By the time he turned 17 he was not in school, had only enough credits for his first year of high school, and was in trouble with his probation officer and the only future he seemed to have was with the Department of Corrections.

   Marc learned about Lincoln's Challenge from a friend of his. In March of 1999, his father and I took him for a visit at Lincoln's Challenge. Thankfully, Sgt. Petkus gave him a chance to enroll in the class starting in July. When we dropped him off that July I don't think anyone expected him to complete the program.

   The first time I picked Marc up for visitation in September, I could not believe the change. He had grown up and become a polite, well-groomed young man and for the first time in a long time seemed to care about his future. His exact words were "I was in a rut that I could not seem to get out of and now I know I can be anything I want to be if I work hard enough."

   He graduated from Lincoln's Challenge in December of 1999. He had earned his GED, had offers to attend Parkland College, and had earned a scholarship to attend a state junior college. To everyone's surprise, the choice he made was to join the Marines. With the help and encouragement of Dennis Brannon he was in contact with the Marine Recruitment Office and was scheduled to join as soon as he turned 18 in April. From the time he graduated from Lincoln's Challenge in December until he joined the Marines in April, most of his friends and even his brothers tried to talk him out of going but he never changed his mind.

   Marc's probation was canceled by the court system and his probation officer even wrote a letter of recommendation to the Marine Recruiter. Marc is now Private First Class M. Gernon in Camp Pendleton, CA and hopes to make a career in the Marine Corp.

   I will always be grateful to Lincoln's Challenge for helping Marc when no one else was able to and for giving him the hope, courage, and skills to become the man that he is today.

Mother of Marc Gernon


Parent Jackie L. Clauserdet

   My son is Bradley Joseph Cox; he proudly serves in the United States Air Force and is stationed in Tacoma, Washington at McCord AFB. He is a wonderful young man and we (his family) are very proud of his accomplishments.

   Prior to Brad going to the Lincoln's Challenge Program, around 14 years of age he began to hang with the wrong crowd. He began drinking and fighting. Trouble first surfaced at home, we was disobedient, defiant, angry and was in constant conflict with all members of our family. Then, trouble started at school, his grades dropped, he wouldn't show up for class if he didn't feel like it, he got into fights and damaged school property. His bad attitude and lack of respect for anyone ended him up in trouble with the law and eventually in jail at the age of 16.

   As a family we were at the end of our rope! We had tried family counseling, asked for help through our family physician, tried new rules at home along with reading every book regarding troubled teens on the shelf. We had numerous conversations trying to get Brad to see that he had chosen the wrong path. I worried that his future looked so bleak. There were no results. After exhausting every effort available I saw a local news program and the young people were much like my son but they had made a decision to change their lives and had joined the Lincoln's Challenge Program and graduated!

   I took down the information and called Lincoln's Challenge Program the very next day. We were given a time to come in for an orientation and in the meantime we were sent information in the mail.

   When my husband and I told Brad what we had learned about the Lincoln's Challenge Program, he was adamant that he would never go to the Lincoln's Challenge Program. We told him that it is his decision but he at least should go with us to gather the information and find out what this program was all about. He agreed.

   Once at the orientation, Brad watched the film, got involved in the question and answer portion and talked privately to Sgt. Ivan Jackson. He made the decision that a life change was needed and he signed up. From that point on and for the next few months he got increasingly excited about the program.

   While at the Lincoln's Challenge Program he excelled in the academic portion of the program and was recognized for his efforts and accomplishments. The LCP transformed him into a very confident and proud young man. We exchanged letters almost every day and each letter showed us that he now understood that he was going to have a bright future and a lot of people standing behind him to give him the extra push and confidence when needed. We went to every visitation and walked away feeling good about the changes in his life. The program was not easy; he earned more privileges as he began to show respect, teamwork and effort. Anyone can do this if they have the right attitude and a desire to overcome!

   He graduated from the Lincoln's Challenge Program on December 17, 1999 and left home for the USAF on December 27. He has never looked back! He continued to carry the pride, confidence and respect for others that he gained from the Lincoln's Challenge Program. Bradley's mentor continued to be very much a part of his life. Whenever Bradley gets an opportunity to come home (even if it is only for a few days) he always stops in to see the Lincoln's Challenge Program staff. He also talks about one day volunteering to work at the Lincoln's Challenge Program in Rantoul.

   Bradley is now 19 years old and has not been in any trouble since graduating from Lincoln's Challenge Program. He has traveled across the United States and calls home four times a week. We are always excited to hear his voice and listen to his accounts of this point in his life. He was home one month ago and we had family pictures taken.

   My family and I are forever grateful to the staff of the Lincoln's Challenge Program. I shudder to think what might have been without the Lincoln's Challenge Program and the staff whom have dedicated their lives to tomorrow's future!

Jackie L. Clauser


Ms. Terry Abrams: Cameron Porter's Mother

   I would like to 1st start by saying THANK GOD FOR THE LINCOLN CHALLENGE PROGRAM!!!!!!!!!!!! This program literally saved my child's life. Cameron was out there bad, doing everything he thought he was big and bad enough to do and the words respect, accountability and responsibility didn't exist in his vocabulary. All of that changed on July 19th, 1999 that's the day he went off to the Lincoln Challenge Program. Cameron Porter being a big guy in stature thought he had it all figured out, he had all the answers.

   Cameron didn't know or realize he was about to embark upon something that would change his life forever. Cameron's 1st trimester was a bit shaky he had to first realize he was in a place where people cared. Cameron adjusts to rules and regulations and met positive people. When Cameron 1st came home on his 1st visit the mannerism he display was unbelievable, his positive response was unrecognizable, I had to ask myself, was this the same boy I sent away 5 weeks ago.

   Cameron met Major Brownfield who had a very positive impact on his life. Major Brownfield drill in Cameron accountability and responsibility is the key. Master Sgt. Watts along with the Team leaders instill leadership qualities, self esteem and respect for yourself and others in Cameron.

   I would recommend this program to anyone because the Administrators and Staff are out to save the lost at any cost and it worked for my son. Cameron received his GED, Scholarship and all kinds of Leadership awards, not to mention he is a dynamic athlete. Because of Lincoln's Challenge Cameron is now working during the day and attending Triton College at night. All I can say is Thank You Lincoln's Challenge, you are a life saver. Now Cameron lives by the words accountability and responsibility.

Ms. Terry Abrams
Cameron Porter's Mother


Story of Cadet Michael Ericksen

   My son Michael Ericksen attended the Lincoln's Challenge Program from January to June 2000. Before Michael went in, he had many disciplinary problems, more than we were able to handle at home. Basically he had a total disregard and disrespect for his father and my authority. He ran away many, many times.

   He has a very high IQ, but did poorly in school. Michael failed his freshman year and half of his sophomore year. He was not motivated to succeed in scholastics or sports. Michael was very definitely not a team player in any of the parts of his life. Michael comes from an average middle class family with many advantages, including two parents who love him.

  When he came out of Lincoln's Challenge, we noticed a more respectful attitude, the ability to work with the family. I specifically noticed his ability to empathize with others, something that he was unable to do before. His temperamental outbursts were minimized. He didn't run away from his problems, but was able to talk them out. When the problems weren't worked out in his favor, he maintained his temper.

   I am not trying to say that he was perfect when he came out of the program, he still has a long way to go till he is grown up, but he is much improved. His father and I didn't know what we were going to do with him before the program, because he was so out of control. I am so grateful for this program and the people who run it. They have a tough job, and they do it very well. I now have my son back!

   He is in the Navy now and is doing very well there. He says that the physical training there isn't as bad as it was in Lincoln's Challenge! He said that the men at the Program toughened him up.

   Thank you for providing the Challenge to people who don't have any other choices. I have recommended the Program to many people with angry troubled children. I will continue to do so.

Respectfully yours,
Lynn Ericksen


Story of Cadet Jason Milam

   My wife and I would like to express our gratitude to the Lincoln Challenge Program, and its staff for the support that they gave our family and for the structure that they instilled in our son former Corps Member Jason Milam.

   Prior to Jason's attending the Lincoln Challenge Program it should be noted that not only was Jason on the road to academic failure, but he had already been placed on probation for fighting. Jason had difficulty controlling his anger. This anger became apparent to his teachers and us alike. We communicated with his teachers on a regular basis and they made comments to us about Jason getting upset about something and having to leave class to walk it off. They said his hands would ball up and his whole body would begin to physically shake. Jason also lied a lot. He would do things and never take responsibility for his actions. These actions became a serious concern to us as parents, it got to the point that we were taking Jason to counseling and they tried to tell us that Jason was ADHD and needed medication to control his temperament. We didn't view this as the answer to Jason's problem and therefore sought alternative methods. After finding none I tried to have my son put in a Juvenile Center, that's when I accidentally stumbled across your program.

   Finding Lincoln Challenge was a blessing. The program gave our son needed structure in his life and somehow enabled him to keep his head and deal with adversity in a healthy and mature manner. He respects himself and others.

   Jason is working and a manager at the dealership recently told us "Jason has a very good work ethic, something they don't teach them in college." He saved his money, bought himself a car, pays his own insurance and goes to college. He has a high regard for his family and others.

   I understand that this is a federally funded program and the funds are allotted only if the programs are successful. Personally I wish more parents knew about your program. If they did, more of our youth would actually have a chance at success in life; be an asset to their communities rather than a liability.

   We are very proud of Jason's accomplishments and we know you would be too. Thank you for all you did to help our family.

John and Cynthia Iorio