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
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
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.