National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program
What is it?
The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program, with 34 program sites across the country, is the second largest mentoring program in the United States. Congress authorized a pilot program in 1993, and now, 14 years later, more than 76,000 at-risk youth have graduated, turned their lives around, and gone on to become productive citizens. The National Guard Bureau (NGB) uses five functional areas in its management and assessment model for ChalleNGe: Strategic Management of Human Capital, Competitive Sourcing, Improved Financial Performance, Expanded Electronic Government, and Budget and Performance Integration. The NGB uses a disciplined and focused approach to guide the Youth ChalleNGe Program to become a high performing organization with the emphasis on outcomes and results. The established infrastructure within the National Guard system that reaches from the national to the local level provides continuity for program administration and guidance. With the limited financial resources available, Youth ChalleNGe Program Directors use planned and structured networking opportunities to maximize the knowledge, skills, and abilities of all staff to ensure maximum effort toward achieving program goals.
What has the Army done?
The mission of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program is to intervene in and reclaim the lives of at-risk youth and produce program graduates with the values, skills, education, and self-discipline necessary to succeed as adults. ChalleNGe is recognized as America’s premier program for at-risk youth. The program is available to every state and territory wanting the opportunity to participate and thereby help America’s youth and insure America’s future.
The average cost for a cadet to complete the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program is $14,000 per year. The high cost of living in some areas throughout the country has resulted in increased costs to program implementation for affected programs. The states receive both Federal and state funds to conduct the ChalleNGe program and thus provide life-altering opportunities to young people who are at risk for becoming a burden on society.
What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?
The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program looks to the future with eight core components:
- Leadership/Followership: Identification and application of individual moral and ethical standards is the focus of the various roles and responsibilities as the cadets live and learn in a structured group environment.
- Responsible Citizenship: The U.S. Government structure and processes, along with individual rights and responsibilities at the local, state, and national level are addressed in the classroom environment, in the student government process, and through practical experiences within local communities.
- Service to Community: A minimum of 40 hours of service to the community and/or conservation project activities are performed by each cadet in a combination of group and individual tasks. These activities provide additional opportunities for career exploration as well as enhancing community-needs awareness in cadets.
- Life-Coping Skills: Increased self-esteem and self-discipline are gained through a combination of classroom activities and a structured living environment. The development of individual strategies and coping mechanisms for managing personal finance and dealing with such emotions as anger, grief, frustration, and stress are developed through structured group discussion and in the classroom environment.
- Physical Fitness: Each program includes conduct a physical fitness component using the President’s ChalleNGe, a test battery based on data collected from a variety of sources including the 1985 President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports National School Population Fitness Survey, the Amateur Athletic Union Physical Fitness Program and the Canada Fitness Award Program.
- Health and Hygiene: A holistic approach that combines physical and mental well-being as cadets explore the effects of substance abuse and sexually transmitted diseases on their physical health and well-being. Cadets learn the physical and emotional benefits of proper nutrition through participation in classes and structured group discussions.
- Job Skills: Career exploration is accomplished through career assessment and interest inventories, job-specific skills orientation and awareness, and training in vocational centers. Specific classroom activities focus on development of individual resumes, completing job applications and preparation for, and conduct of job interviews.
- Academic Excellence. All ChalleNGe participants attend daily academic classes preparing them for testing for the General Education Development (GED) credential, a high school diploma, or increased math and reading comprehension. Evaluation of a cadet's grade level progress during the Residential Phase is measured using the Tests of Adult Basic Education (TABE) testing process.
Why is this important to the Army?
Youth ChalleNGe Program graduates are not only potential productive members of American society; they are also prime candidates for joining the Army National Guard or other military services and much less likely to end up on the streets of crime or the halls of our crowded prisons. The youth of today are the promise of the nation tomorrow.