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About the Program

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Reclaiming the lives of at-risk youth, producing program graduates with the values, life skills, education and self-discipline to succeed as productive citizens.

Youth Challenge is an alternative program which offers youth, who have dropped out of school or are not progressing, the opportunity to change their future. Participants looking for a way to succeed outside of a traditional school setting learn self discipline, leadership, and responsibility while working to obtain their high school diploma or equivalency.

Our Program

The National Guard Youth Challenge Program, a preventive rather than remedial at-risk youth program, targets voluntary participants, 16 to 18 years of age, who have dropped out of school or are not satisfactorily progressing, are unemployed or under employed, drug-free, and crime-free.

The National Guard Youth Challenge Program is a community-based program that leads, trains and mentors 16-18 year old so that they may become productive citizens in America’s future.

The Challenge Experience

  • The Challenge experience has transformed the lives of over 175,000 youth to date.
  • The changes are powerful, from the inside out, and the outside in!
  • The positive results not only impact the graduates, but also their families and community.

Core Components

  • The National Guard Youth Challenge Program is one of the most successful alternative education programs designed for high school dropouts or youth that are not progressing in a traditional high school setting.
  • Over 153,000 cadets have graduated since 1993. Remarkably, over 60% of these graduates–former wayward high school dropouts–have earned their GED or high school diploma while in the program.
  • This percentage is nearly double the average reported pass rate of 41% for the same target age group.

Eligibility Requirements

For selection into the program, the applicant must be:

  • 16-18 years of age at the time of entry into the program.
  • A high school dropout or not progressing in traditional high school setting.
  • A citizen of legal resident of the United States.
  • Unemployed, or underemployed.
  • Not currently on parole or probation and not accused or convicted of a crime that would be considered a felony if they were an adult.
  • Free from use of illegal drugs or substances.
    Physically and mentally capable to participate in the program.

Quasi-Military

The rhythm of boots marching in unison echoes off the surrounding buildings as a cadet with the Maryland National Guard’s Freestate Challenge Academy marches his platoon to the academy’s mess hall, Nov.17, 2015.

For cadets at the academy—part of the National Guard’s Youth Challenge Program, which provides a path for “at-risk” youth to receive a GED or high school diploma—marching is an everyday part of life at the academy where a military-style boot camp environment is used to create structure and build discipline among cadets.

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All eyes are on the platoon leader as cadets at the Maryland National Guard’s Freestate Challenge Academy wait in formation for the command to enter the academy’s mess hall for lunch, Nov. 17, 2015.

Part of the National Guard’s Youth Challenge program, the Freestate Academy follows a quasi-military program of instruction as a way to instill discipline and esprit-de-corps in cadets.

Washington Youth Challenge Academy Video Series

Part 1: Acclimation

Take a look inside the Washington Youth Academy in this four-part series that follows the cadets of class 15-1 from reception to graduation.

In this video we get to see what it’s like during the first two weeks at the academy, also known as the Acclimation Phase.

Washington Youth Challenge Academy Video Series

Part 2: The Cadets

Take a look inside the Washington Youth Academy in this four-part series that follows the cadets of class 15-1 from reception to graduation.

In this episode we meet a few cadets and hear their story on how they got to the academy. The emotions run high as the cadets greet their families for the first time in seven weeks.

Washington Youth Challenge Academy Video Series

Part 3: The Cadre

Take a look inside the Washington Youth Academy in this four-part series that follows the cadets of class 15-1 from reception to graduation.

In this episode we visit the cadets during their three-day Team Building Exercise.

We also meet members of the cadre and a couple of the teachers and hear about why they do what they do.

Washington Youth Challenge Academy Video Series

Part 4: The Academics

Take a look inside the Washington Youth Academy in this four-part series that follows the cadets of class 15-1 from reception to graduation.

The final video of the series shows us a typical day in the life of a cadet as they attend school and then the long awaited day arrives, graduation.