United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Release

Press Operations Bookmark and Share

News Release


Release No: 219-97
May 06, 1997


A National Guard program that offers at-risk youth a chance to earn a General Educational Development (GED) certificate in five months of intensive instruction has been named as a semifinalist in the 1997 Innovations in American Government Awards presented by The Ford Foundation and Harvard University.

Challenge, a residential program operating in 15 states for drug-free, 16 to 18-year-old high school dropouts, is sponsored by the office of the assistant secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs and the National Guard Bureau. It offers these teenagers a chance to earn their GED through a program that provides scholastic training and teaches life skills, health, fitness, hygiene and a respect for the value of citizenship and community service.

This nomination is well deserved because the program is already a winner, said Deborah R. Lee, assistant secretary of defense for Reserve Affairs. Challenge provides important leadership training for Guard personnel and helps attract successful, committed young people into military service. America is the ultimate winner because we all gain from helping young people succeed.

Targeting youths who are unemployed and not currently involved with the legal system, Challenge provides graduates with a stipend if they go on to college, vo-tech or directly to a job. At the conclusion of the 22-week residential program, graduates enter into a 12-month mentoring period supported by volunteers from the National Guard and civilian community. Students incur no military obligation from participation in Challenge.

Program statistics demonstrate Challenge's success. A survey of the 5,000 most recent graduates found that 43.3 percent were gainfully employed, 22.4 percent were attending college, 13.8 percent were attending vocational schools, 11.9 percent had returned to high school and the remaining 8.6 percent were serving in the military.

In 1992, Congress authorized the secretary of Defense, acting through the chief of the National Guard, to conduct Challenge for three years. The FY 96 Defense Authorization Act extended the program another 18 months to August 10, 1997. DoD has requested a two-year extension through FY 99 in the proposed FY 98 Authorization bill.

Challenge is one of 99 programs selected as a semifinalist from a pool of 1,540 applicants. The semifinalists include 23 federal, 23 state, 48 county, city and town programs and six special government authorities.

The Innovations Awards, funded by the Ford Foundation, and administered by the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, annually recognize effective government programs on the federal, state, county, city and town levels. This year's semifinalists include programs to improve the quality of education, develop affordable housing, fight crime and protect the environment.

For additional information media should contact U.S. Army Lt. Col. Terry Jones at the office of the assistant secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs (703) 695-3620.

Additional Links

Stay Connected