Challenge Academy cadets help clean Ontario park from flood damage

Ten months have passed since record floodwaters tore through local communities. Many are still rebuilding the damage left behind.

The Challenge Academy based at Fort McCoy helps children who have traveled down the wrong path. The Challenge Academy teaches them discipline, so they can reach their potential.

The community of Ontario is still cleaning up from that August nightmare.

“Mother Nature decided to drop a lot of water on us,” said Chief David Rynes with the Ontario Police Department.

Ten months later, the people of Ontario are still trying to keep up with cleanup.

“It’s a work in progress,” Rynes said. “We need someone to come in and help clean up our parks.”

Cadets from the Challenge Academy have helped restore this town.

“We’ll clean the park here,” said cadet Michael Paskiewicz

While they helped this town recover from its troubled past, these young men are dealing with their own.

“We were nondisciplined kids that really weren’t doing great in school,” Paskiewicz said.

The Challenge Academy helps them do some good in the world.

“They need service to the community items,” Rynes said.

They have spent the last five months building toward their goal: a clean slate.

“We are almost done,” Paskiewicz ​​​​​​​said. “Done here in eight days.”

Paskiewicc and his fellow cadets provide help to any community that needs it, but this time it’s personal.

“I’m from Ontario,” Paskiewicz ​​​​​​​said.

He is back making a difference in his hometown.

“I caused a lot of grief in this town, and it helps me feel better about what I did,” Paskiewicz ​​​​​​​said. “I’m giving back to the community.”

He said the path he walked was created by the people with whom he chose to surround himself.

“It was just the people I hung around with. It’s all about your group,” Paskiewicz ​​​​​​​said. “It’s whoever you hang around with. That was my problem.”

Rynes said it’s a win for communities when young people make the choice to change their actions for the better.

“He struggled for a little while,” Rynes said. “Seeing him at the Academy, I think those struggles are behind him.”

The water has receded from this community, and so have the problems in Paskiewicz’s life.

“There’s always a way to turn around and fix yourself,” Paskiewicz said. “Always think about the harder right over the easier wrong. It’s probably the best thing I have ever done.”

After these cadets graduate, they will get to go back to their hometowns and graduate from high school. The Challenge Academy is a 5 1/2 month program. There is more information at

Get your weather forecast from people that actually live in your community. We update with short, easy-to-use video forecasts you can watch on your phone every day. Download the iOS or Android app here.