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National Guard Youth Challenge

What is it?
The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program is designed to intervene in and reclaim the lives of at-risk youth as well as produce program graduates with the values, skills, education, and self-discipline necessary to succeed as adults. The ChalleNGe program is recognized as America's premier program for at-risk youth.

What has the Army done?
The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program has 34 sites across the country and is the second largest mentoring program behind Big Brothers and Big Sisters. Congress authorized a pilot program in 1993, and to date more than 81,000 at-risk youth (cadets) have graduated, turned their lives around, and gone on to become productive citizens. The National Guard Bureau (NGB) uses a disciplined and focused approach so that the Youth ChalleNGe is a high performance program with an emphasis on outcomes and results. The established infrastructure, from the national down to the local level, provides continuity for program administration and guidance. With the limited financial resources available, the Youth ChalleNGe program's director's use planned and structured networking opportunities to maximize the knowledge, skills, and abilities of all staff members.

The program costs approximately $16,300 per year but it is more expensive in high cost of living areas. The program is funded with both federal and state funds. The money is well spent because it is used to provide life-altering opportunities for at-risk youth who otherwise may be swayed to take a less productive path.

What continued efforts does the Army have planned for the future?
The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program consists of eight core components:

Leadership/Followership: Identification and application of individual moral and ethical standards are the focus of the various roles and responsibilities as the cadets live and learn in a structured and supportive group environment.

Responsible Citizenship: Government structure and processes, along with individual rights and responsibilities at the local, state, and national level are addressed in a classroom environment. The program introduces cadets to the student government process and also provides them with practical experiences within local communities.

Service to Community: Cadets must complete a minimum of 40 hours of group and individual community service and/or conservation project tasks. These activities provide additional opportunities for career exploration as well as enhancing a cadet's community awareness.

Life-Coping Skills: Increased self-esteem and self-discipline are gained through a combination of classroom activities and a structured living environment. During structured group discussion cadets develop individual strategies and coping mechanisms for managing their personal finances and dealing with their emotions (e.g., anger, grief, frustration, and stress).

Physical Fitness: Each program includes a physical fitness component using the President's Challenge—a test 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: The program provides cadets with a holistic approach that covers both physical and mental well-being and stresses the negative effects of substance abuse and sexually transmitted diseases. Cadets also 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 preparing for and conducting job interviews.

Academic Excellence: All ChalleNGe participants attend daily academic classes that prepare them for the General Educational Development test, earning their high school diploma, or increased math and reading comprehension. Evaluation of a cadet's grade level progress during the resident phase is measured using the Tests of Adult Basic Education testing process.

Why is this important to the Army?
This program provides a badly needed structure and discipline to our Nation's at-risk youth. Those young people who participate in the Youth ChalleNGe are far more likely to become productive citizens. In fact, graduates of this program are precisely the types of young people the Army seeks to fill the ranks of the All-Volunteer Force.

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