Kentucky National Guard Youth Challenge program recruiting for next class

Free program gives youth a head start on life

Story by David Altom, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs

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Challenge Academy cadets enjoyed an all-access pass to this year’s NASCAR race at the Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Ky., June 28-30, 2013. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Kentucky National Guard Youth Challenge program recruiting effort is in full swing. Jointly funded between the federal government and the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and sponsored by the Kentucky National Guard, Youth ChalleNGe is designed to help youth, ages 16-18, get a jump start on life.

The 22-week curriculum covers extensive academic studies geared toward completing a high school diploma as well as physical fitness, leadership and community awareness projects. The program has been around for nearly 20 years. More than 100,000 cadets have graduated from the program nation-wide.

Basic qualifications for admission include:

  • Applicants must be between the ages of 16-18 on class start date (Jan 2014)
  • Free of illegal drugs
  • A high school student failing to progress toward completion or a high school dropout who has not received a secondary school diploma, GED certificate, or equivalent from another program
  • Mentally and physically capable to participate
  • Not under indictment or convicted of a felony offense
ACA hiking club

The Appalachian Challenge Academy Hiking Club took their first hiking trip on the historic trail known as the “Hole in the Rock” on Stone Mountain that separates Virginia and Kentucky. The Hiking Club was dropped off on the Virginia trailhead, hiked to the top of Stone Mountain and had lunch at the “Hole in the Rock”. They then came down the Kentucky side and was picked up at the beautiful Cranks Creek Lake where the trail ends. Cadets enjoyed a day of photography, enjoying the mountain scenery, and some shared their mountain heritage by identifying roots and herbs. (Photo by Cadet Taylor)

The program is 100% free for qualified applicants.

There are currently two Youth Challenge academies in Kentucky — the Bluegrass ChallengeAcademy is located at Fort Knox while Harlan is home to the Appalachian Challenge Academy.

“We’ve seen some dramatic changes in the young men and women that have come through our front door,” said Josh Coldiron, director of the Appalachian Challenge Academy in Harlan. “They often come from situations that would break your heart. All they need is a little structure and encouragement to make a positive difference in their lives.”

“If you are the parent of a young person who is in need or you know someone you think needs help, this program just may be the answer,” said Coldiron.

With spring classes beginning January 12, 2014 the deadline is fast approaching.

To find out more about the Bluegrass ChalleNGe Academy at Fort Knox call 1-877-599-6884 or email dorothy.m.heffelfinger.nfg@mail.mil

To find out more about the Appalachian ChalleNGe Academy in Harlan call 1-855-596-4927 or email melinda.f.dillman.nfg@mail.mil

Below are the top five myths about the Kentucky National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program:

MYTH #1. The ChalleNGe Program is another juvenile detention center for teenagers who are troublemakers.

FACT: The ChalleNGe Program is a voluntary program for families needing direction for youth 16-18 who have the desire to complete their high school education or earn a GED, and to learn life skills to enhance their future.

MYTH #2. Most participants are court ordered to attend the ChalleNGe Program.

FACT: The ChalleNGe Program is a voluntary program for all participants.

MYTH #3. The ChalleNGe Program is 22 weeks of discipline and military training.

FACT: The ChalleNGe Program earns participating Cadets more than discipline and structure. Over the course of the 22 week residential phase, Cadets work daily towards earning a GED or earning credits to return and rejoin their high school class. They also complete a minimum of 40 hours of community service, and take part in many local events.

MYTH #4. Participants must be of a qualifying low income level to attend the ChalleNGe Program.

FACT: Acceptance to the ChalleNGe Program is open to all teenagers ages 16-18 who are educationally at risk, regardless of income level. The program is also of no cost to participants.

MYTH #5. Participants graduate from the ChalleNGe Program to enter into the military.

FACT: Participants graduate from the ChalleNGe Program to enter into many types of placement – there is no requirement to enter into the military upon graduating. Many cadets enter into college, gain full-time employment, or enroll back into their high schools to complete their high school diploma.

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