Faces of California Military Department's
Task Force Torch

Celebrating National Mentoring Month

Stories by U.S. Army Sgt. Marla Ogden
California Military Department Public Affairs

Jan. 31, 2024

Los Alamitos, Calif. - The California Military Department's Youth and Community Programs Task Force, known as Task Force Torch, creates pathways to success for California's youth by empowering them with tools to shape their own futures.

Through nine quasi-military educational programs, Task Force Torch actively creates and sustains impactful transformations by fostering trust, promoting responsible citizenship, and encouraging purposeful engagement.

This January, during National Mentoring Month, we're spotlighting some of the dedicated professionals behind Task Force Torch, who are a beacon of stability and encouragement for the youth entrusted to their care.

Creating life-changing experiences for California's youth

Click the images to view their stories.

Sunburst Youth Academy

"Seeing the kids from the beginning through to graduation and just seeing the transformation… It’s really amazing."
CW2 (CA) Kristen Spence, lead counselor at Sunburst Youth Academy

California Cadet Corps

"The goal is for us as adults is to move out of the way and allow the cadets to have that leadership development."
CACC Capt. Charles Wallis, commandant of Rosamond High School Early College Campus


"When students come to STARBASE, we aim to make learning really fun for them so that it opens a door for them."
Garrett Walton, instructor at DoD STARBASE Los Alamitos

California Job Challenge

"To be able to give them a safe space where they can be around similar experiences, and they can feel comfortable and promoted to start changing, that's a win."
California Army National Guard Sgt. Jayson Ricci, platoon sergeant at California Job Challenge

Discovery ChalleNGe Academy

“Here, we’re not changing lives, we're transforming them.”
Master Sgt. (CA) Vanessa Elias, commandant of Discovery ChalleNGe Academy

Grizzly Youth Academy

"They often come in with a lot of baggage or trauma, but if you can identify with them to guide them, it'll help. I tell them, 'The best experience I have to help you guys out is my past.'"
Sgt. 1st Class (CA) Fernando Gonzalez, cadre supervisor at Grizzly Youth Academy

Porterville Military Academy

"What we're doing is making future leaders and instilling skills into our students so that they can be great."
Sgt. 1st Class (CA) Shaun Valdivia, TAC NCO at Porterville Military Academy

Oakland Military Institute

"We really support our youth to excel with the military structure and discipline by ensuring that they are prepared."
California Army National Guard Spc. Kyla Manlangit, support specialist at Oakland Military Institute

California Military Institute

“It's about having that ability to show them that they can do more, being able to tell them and explain to them that if you stick to these standards and disciplines, it's going to pay dividends in the future.”
California Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Kelhi, operations and training NCO at California Military Institute