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USO Honors State National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Programs

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 1, 2006 – Cadets representing 11 National Guard Youth ChalleNGe programs from 10 states were on hand here today to accept awards for excellence in the their programs.

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Cadets from 11 National Guard Youth ChalleNGe programs from 10 states attended the 2006 National Guard ChalleNGe Program Award Luncheon. The awards program, presented by the United Service Organizations of Metropolitan Washington, recognized excellence in several key components of the ChalleNGe program. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley

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Although the programs were being honored, Army Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, made it clear that the cadets are what make those programs successful.

"What we're most proud of is are the young men and women that are sitting at these tables ... that are proof positive that this program is the most effective program in the nation when it comes to saving the next greatest generation," Blum said. "We will stay behind you all the way. You have a life partner for anything you want to do for the rest of your life with the National Guard."

Thomas Hall, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs, echoed that commitment.

"My office, and me personally, considers that saving even one youth is worth every bit of money in this program," he said. "This nation needs you."

Honored guests at the 2006 National Guard ChalleNGe Program Awards luncheon presented by the United Service Organizations of Metropolitan Washington included World Wrestling Entertainment superstar Ken Kennedy, and Kelly Perdew, second-season winner on the television series "The Apprentice" and author of the motivational book "Take Command."

"I can't say enough how proud I am of you," Perdew, a U.S. M ilitary Academy graduate, told the cadets in the audience. "The ChalleNGe program is a phenomenal opportunity for you. Do not let it go to waste; turn it into something great."

Perdew also challenged the cadets to give back to the program after graduation. "Talk to the kids that need to be in it," he told them.

Kennedy, who spent six years in the Army Reserve, offered his encouragement as well.

"You kids that made it through this program are the real superstars here today," Kennedy said. "This is a new beginning for you folks. You people can do whatever you put your hearts and minds to."

Perdew, Kennedy and Blum presented the USO awards recognizing the programs that excelled in one of several of the program's core components:

  • Wisconsin ChalleNGe Academy was recognized for its excellence in community service. The program best promotes opportunities for cadets to experience the value of giving back to the community.
  • Montana Youth ChalleNGe was recognized for excellence in health and hygiene through the development of an understanding of and appreciation for healthy lifestyles, proper hygiene and good nutrition.
  • Tarheel ChalleNGe Academy of North Carolina received an award for responsible citizenship. Thirty Tarheel cadets serve in state legislative offices as well as the governor's office during each cycle of the program to develop an understanding of and appreciation for individual citizen rights and responsibilities.
  • The South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy at Columbia received its award for excellence in physical fitness for promoting opportunities for its cadets in fitness and sports activities.
  • Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy of West Virginia was honored for the way it enhances its cadets' life-coping skills. They learn personal financial management, parenting and other life skills.
  • Alaska Military Youth Academy was recognized for is program that develops job skills. Cadets learn basic work skills as well as resume writing, job interview techniques, and career exploration.
  • Arizona Project ChalleNGe was awarded the Lt. Gen. Herbert R. Temple Leadership Award for being the program that best develops cadets' leadership skills.
  • The New Jersey Youth ChalleNGe Academy was presented with the Lt. Gen. Emmet H. Walker Academic Award for best increasing grade levels in reading and mathematics while providing its cadets with well-rounded and diversified academic experiences.
  • The Oregon Youth ChalleNGe Program was honored for excellence in the post-residential phase of its program. It stood out as best in retaining cadets throughout the program and helping them to meet additional program milestones.

In addition, the South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Academy at Camp Long and California Grizzly Youth Academy were recognized for program innovation and as the best all-around program, respectively.

Each of the winning programs represented at the luncheon also received the Gen. Henry H. Shelton ChalleNGe Leadership Scholarship. The $1,000 scholarships were funded by the WWE and are for continuing the education of graduating cadets.

The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe program provides a preventive program targeting at-risk youth between 16 and 18. Candidates for the program must be unemployed, drug-free with no police record, and have dropped out of high school. A 22-week residential program is followed by a yearlong mentoring phase with a specially trained member of each youth's community.

More than 62,000 cadets have graduated from the 31 National Guard Challenge programs in 25 states and Puerto Rico, since Congress authorized them in 1993. More than 70 percent of those graduates have earned their general equivalency or high school diploma while in the program, and 25 percent have gone on to college. Though not intended as a recruiting tool, 20 percent of the graduates joined the military, according to the ChalleNGe Web site.

Contact Author

Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum

Related Sites:
National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program

Click photo for screen-resolution imageCalifornia Grizzly Youth Academy Cadet Lauren Chuddy shared her story with the audience gathered for the 2006 National Guard ChalleNGe Program Award Luncheon, hosted by the United Service Organizations of Metropolitan Washington. The ChalleNGe program changed her life and gave her a future, she said. Photo by Samantha L. Quigley  
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