The National Guard Youth ChallNGe Program was established by the National Guard in 1993 to turn around the lives of young men and women between the ages of 16 and 18 who are experiencing difficulty in completing traditional high school. This is a cost-free program that is opened to Georgia residents.
Currently operating 34 programs in 27 states and Puerto Rico, the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program is a voluntary 17-month dropout recovery program that helps at-risk youths earn their high school diploma or GED. We do so in a very disciplined and structured program that uses the military model. ChalleNGe works with program participants after graduation to help enroll in college, trade school, start a career or join the military. More than 113,000 students have graduated to date—changing the path for their lives.
By intervening in the lives of troubled adolescents, ChalleNGe is making a difference. It is the only program of its kind that provides graduates with a personal mentor for one year to help the transition into adulthood.
ChalleNGe empowers participants to embrace responsibility, achievement and positive behavior. It instills self-confidence, fosters ambition and increases opportunities through job skills training, service to the community, and leadership. A multi-year study by MDRC found the program's participants achieve "impressive results" in educational attainment and employability. Key findings of that study include: GED or high school diploma attainment increased by 29%; college attendance increased by 86%; annual earnings increased by 20%.
According to RAND Corporation cost-Benefit analysis, every dollar expended on ChalleNGe yields $2.66 in benefits—a return on investment of 166%. This return is substantially higher than other rigorously evaluated social programs that target disadvantaged youth. Youth Challenge is unmatched in its effectiveness in helping youth prepare for the future.

Core Components

The Academy's mission and curriculum are accomplished during the residential phase through the completion of the following eight core components:

Life Coping Skills

Educational Excellence

Responsible Citizenship

Skills Training

Health, Hygiene and Sex Education

Physical Fitness

Leadership and Followership

Community Service

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Georgia National Guard Youth ChalleNGe: A Brief Synopsis of its History

The history of the Youth ChalleNGe Program began in the late 1980s with a Master's thesis by Dan Donahue. Mr. Donahue was serving as the Chief of Youth Programs for the National Guard Bureau at the Pentagon. Among his responsibilities was the charge to find ways the National Guard could assist communities in carrying out its mission of "adding value to America." According to Mr. Donahue, the Guard has three goals: to serve America's active duty forces as a back-up, to assist each home state with emergencies (floods, riots, forest fires, security for the Olympics, etc.), and provide each community where an armory is located with community involvement. Overall, it was concluded that the National Guard was chartered by Congress to act in national, state, or local emergencies.

That being the case, the question arose as to what current emergencies could the Guard assist with, especially since it appeared that the Soviet Union was dissolving (which it did), and since the Berlin Wall seemed ready to come down (which it also did). These two things would mean a shift in the traditional place the Guard was thought to be necessary. Rather than being so ready to help fight communism on an international scale due to the last two events, perhaps the Guard should look to its state and community missions for its future emphasis. So, the question arose, what then is a current national or state emergency that the Guard could help with? It was concluded that American youth ages 16-18 who were dropping out of school without their diplomas had reached epidemic proportions, and actually formed a long-range internal security and defense threat for the United States.

It was pointed out that if we have a generation of American Youth who cannot read and write well, they cannot function as active participants in the American system. Thomas Jefferson had thought that the first line of defense for a nation is an informed populace. This means not only freedom of the press, but a free people who can read the press. This means not only free speech, but also a people who can practice logical and responsible speech.

Early on, the response to the very idea that dropouts constituted a national and state problem of enormous dimensions was to admit that "yes, it is a problem, but how can the National Guard address that issue?" So, for a year or two, that idea of the Guard helping with this problem was shelved. However, someone eventually revived the idea by reminding those concerned that the Guard could help with this problem if approached in the following manner. What high school dropouts need is a structured environment in which to finish their high school educations. What the National Guard does is to train citizens to be soldiers. That means that on the one hand, we have people who need training and education, and we have on the other, an organization that does training and education.

The National Guard is an "education agency" of sorts. The Guard has classrooms, dining facilities, and barracks. It was suggested that the only difference between dining facilities and cafeterias, barracks and dormitories, are the names by which they are called. And, the Guard already has a core of trained platform presenters (teachers, by another word) who know what behavioral objectives are, and who know how to construct lesson plans. Therefore, why not explore how to put these two together? When this argument was advanced, a study was commissioned by Senator John McCain and Representative Dave McCurdy (both members of Congress and of Arizona).

The National Guard Youth ChallNGe Program Yields Results

75% of program graduates receive their high school diploma, GED or return to high school.

96% of program graduates join the workforce, the military or continue their education.

More than 110,000 at-risk youth have turned their lives around through ChalleNGe since 1993.

Every dollar spent on ChalleNGe yields a 166% return on investment.


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