contributed….Mike Murphy, a lieutenant colonel in the Wisconsin Army National Guard, begins his new job today (Nov. 19, 2012) as the director of the Wisconsin National Guard Challenge Academyat Fort McCoy, Wis.  Murphy, of Elroy, Wis., has a heart for youth, particularly at-risk teens.

“They went to school, worked with social workers and did a lot of community work,” Murphy said.

Although the Youth Leadership Training Center was strictly for adjudicated males from Lincoln Hills School and Ethan Allen, there are similarities to the Challenge Academy program, a voluntary program which offers at-risk youth the opportunity to change their lives. However, Challenge Academy applicants must not be currently charged with or previously convicted of a felony and must not be on adult parole or probation.

“When I was up at the Youth Leadership Training Center, I wanted to work with kids who wanted to make a change in their lives,” Murphy said. “I enjoy that – it’s extremely rewarding.”  Murphy also assisted the Challenge Academy program over the years, helping during the first two weeks of each new class.

“I’ve always believed in the program,” he said, adding that he has gotten to know the Wisconsin Challenge Academy staff and is aware of the program’s reputation. “I thought I’d want to work there if the chance ever arose.”  Murphy plans to meet with all the departments and staff at Challenge Academy to determine what is working and what can be done better. However, he does not foresee the need for sweeping across-the-board changes.  “I’ve heard nothing but good things about the staff,” he said.

In addition to his Youth Leadership training Center experience, Murphy plans to draw from his parenting skills and lessons learned from working with the Royall School District in Elroy and coaching.  “I think my way of communicating is the right way to gain their trust, earn their respect,” Murphy said. “I think I have a way of understanding kids. Someone on that negative path has something you can reach to find positive ideas and turn their lives around.”

Murphy has worked for the state of Wisconsin for more than 16 years, most recently as a unit manager with the Sand Ridge Secure Treatment Center in Mauston, Wis. He has more than 24 years with the Wisconsin Army National Guard, including a deployment to Balad, Iraq as commander of Troop E, 105th Cavalry and five years of full-time stateside duty supporting deployed units. He is currently a comptroller with the Wisconsin National Guard’s U.S. Property and Fiscal Office.

“I’m excited to get started,” Murphy said. “I hope I can be a good leader for the program.”