At the Georgia Youth ChalleNGe Program, we want to not only prepare our applicants for the changes they may experience while attending our program, but also their Parents & Guardians.
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Our purpose is to provide cadets the discipline and confidence necessary to create a positive future for themselves. We are designed to promote personal growth by shifting cadets outside of their comfort zone, so they can develop new skills and responsibility. By our very nature, the program can be a challeNGe for candidates and cadets. We ask you to be patient, understanding, and supportive of your child and the Academy as we work to increase your child’s confidence, self-esteem, and focus on the future. Here are a few of the primary concerns participants may express while adapting to their new environment:
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Chances are, your teenager has never been away from home for more than a week. Even then, they were most likely in a familiar environment with trusted people. Coming to YCA will be a great adventure for your candidate, but as with any adventure your candidate may be fearful of things they do not know or understand. They will naturally want to return to the familiar and loving embrace of their comfort zone and family members.
Stress: Our candidates live in what is referred to as an “open bay” style dormitory with upwards of 50 other young adults. Candidates live with their peers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There is little to no opportunity for privacy or quiet moments alone. If your child is used to having their own room where they can shut the door and ignore the stress of interacting with other people, then this will be shocking indeed! Much like in the adult world, candidates will learn to cooperate with many different types of people.
Loss of Control: Some of our candidates have spent months or years in control of different situations. Naturally, young people have a lot more energy and time to dedicate to an argument than you do. Your child may have argued with you to get their way until you grew tired and gave in to their demands. However, they will not have that opportunity here. All employees of the Youth ChalleNGe Program work together to set standards, expectations, and processes cadets must follow. By creating this supportive network, the Academy can guide your cadet to their path for success. However, this loss of control in situations may cause candidates to feel vulnerable and they may choose to act out. Please encourage your cadet to respond to constructively to these changes.
The most important thing to understand is your cadet must want to enter this program. They should also understand this is a quasi-military Academy where they will be marching and learning military protocols, such as how to stand at attention and follow the appropriate chain of command. Cadets have entered the program and were not successful because they did not understand the daily requirements.
Once your cadet has agreed to enter the program, maintain a positive and upbeat approach when talking about the Academy. Do not threaten your cadet with sending them to the Academy. Instead, talk about the fantastic opportunities they will have and how this experience will help them grow toward becoming a responsible adult. When you and your child attend orientation, speak not just to the negative behaviors of your candidate, but also their positive qualities as well.
Do not speak negatively of the Academy to your candidate. While the system is not perfect, it has worked for over 100,000 young people. If you see something you do not like or do not agree with, discuss it with your candidate’s counselor. If you talk about potential negative issues with your candidate, the candidate will see this as an opportunity to talk you out of send them or letting them come home.
In the week leading up to intake day, have a fun dinner or party with friends and family who are invested in your cadet’s success. Have attendees write their addresses and well wishes on a card or in a notebook so the cadet can have this to take to the Academy with them. You may ask attendees to bring gifts allowed at the Academy such as appropriate books, study guides, stamps, envelopes, coloring books, and coloring pencils.
Most importantly, prepare your cadet by purchasing the requested supplies. Do not forget to pack required prescription medications, a driver’s license manual, and an ASVAB study guide if your candidate is interested in the military. Prepare a special letter of encouragement for your cadet and put it in their duffel bag where they can easily find it. Let your cadet know how proud you are of their choice to travel a new path.
On the day of entry, make your departure quickly. Assure your child you love them and are excited for their new adventure, then hug and kiss them goodbye. A new future awaits!