From coach to teacher, Youth Challenge instructor bonds with cadets

Bond4rs

John Bond, aka “Coach Bond” has been a driving not just for the athletes on his team, but for all of the cadets at the Appalachian Challenge Academy in Harlan. (Photo courtesy Appalachian Challenge Academy)

Story by David Altom, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

HARLAN, Ky. — The Appalachian Challenge Academy has established itself as a force to be reckoned with since opening its doors in Harlan only a couple of years ago.  Hundreds of cadets have graduated the 22-week program thus far, some going back to high school with a path toward college or vocational-technical schools, others getting jobs or joining up with the military.

And while the cadets are certainly due credit for their own success, let’s face facts:  all the desire and determination in the world is in vain without the proper guidance; it takes teachers and mentors to set the example and point young people in the right direction.

J. Bond

Better known as “Coach Bond,” John Bond brought his skills from decades of teaching in the public schools to teaching and mentoring cadets at the Appalachian Challenge Academy in Harlan. (Photo courtesy Appalachian Challenge Academy)

One such mentor is John Bond, better known in Harlan County as “Coach Bond.”   A graduate of the University of Kentucky and English teacher/girls basketball coach from Cumberland High School, Bond couldn’t just go home when it came time to retire.   Rather than settle down, he took on a new role as a language arts and history teacher at the ACA.

“The Appalachian Challenge Academy means a lot to this area,” said Bond. “It takes kids that have fallen off the path to success and disappeared, and brings them back into a classroom to build confidence in them. It is all about a second or third chance to succeed.”

In coaching, everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. This is the same with teaching. Cadets enter the Academy in the same way, and we have to coach them to prepare them for the GED. Teaching them to try their best and to work hard toward a goal also helps prepare them for life after the Academy.

First, they have to want the help. That is the most important thing, that they are willing to accept the help we can offer. Second, they have to have aspirations, to want better things in life. Sometimes they do not develop these goals until we get a hold of them. Third, they have to accept that in life everything does not always work out like you plan and things change so they have to be able to adapt.

IMG_0442rs

Better known as “Coach Bond,” John Bond brought his skills from decades of teaching in the public schools to teaching and mentoring cadets at the Appalachian Challenge Academy in Harlan. (Photo courtesy Appalachian Challenge Academy)

The biggest boundary is raising cadet confidence levels, and getting them to buy into hard work to understand that they are the ones who have to help themselves,” said Bond.  “You can teach anyone if they have the right attitude.”

Bond cites the example of a cadet who came to the academy unused to working hard.  “He thought he didn’t have to put forth an effort to get an education. He was well mannered, courteous, and always willing to help but needed focus. We finally got him settled and on the right track. He recently called to inform us that he completed his high school equivalency test and plans to attend college for welding and computer science. That is a huge success to me that he did not give up after graduating from the Academy. I expect him to continue his growth and become a successful adult.”

Bond’s reputation with the academy staff is a measurement of his success.

“Coach Bond has a passion about him that catches the young men and women’s attention, especially when he teaches or coaches,” said Master Sgt. Tonia Henry. “He pulls out each person’s special trait and helps them to develop it. He never gives up or quits on a person, and he does not allow you to give up or quit on yourself.”

“Coach Bond has a big and caring heart for the cadets here at the academy,” said 1st Sgt. Lee.  “He told me he wished he could help all of the cadets get a good start in life by helping them get on the right path. He is always trying to encourage our cadets to do their best.”

Ryan French, ACA Instructor had high praise for this coach turned teacher.  “Coach Bond is a man that despite his infancy in Youth Challenge, is a wealth of knowledge to all that graces his presence. From his professional insight to his vast wisdom on everyday life matters, Coach Bond is an motivation to every cadet and colleague that he is around.”

Kentucky Youth ChalleNGe is designed to help youth, ages 16-18, get a jump start on life. The 22-week credit recovery program is geared toward completing a high school diploma as well as physical fitness, leadership and community awareness projects. The program has been around for nearly 20 years. More than 100,000 cadets have graduated from the program nation-wide.

For more information on Appalachian Challenge Academy contact Josh Coldiron, 606-574-0303 or 855-596-4927 or email joshua.m.coldiron.nfg@mail.mil or brittany.t.blair.nfg@mail.mil

 

About kentuckyguard