National Guard Youth ChalleNGe GED Program

Last Updated on May 16, 2024.

The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program is a 17-month instructional and motivational program for youth ages 16 to 18 who quit high school prematurely that helps them earn a GED diploma.

During the program’s first 5 months, participants in the program live at a National Guard Academy. There are 40 of these academies across the nation.

While at a National Guard Academy, they will attend classes, learn jobs, develop their life skills, partake in physical fitness drills, and be active in community service.

For the last 12 months of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program, students are assigned a mentor who will help them with earning their GED diploma and perhaps also continue their education in college.

So Youth ChalleNGe is an alternative training/education program that provides youth who quit school prematurely or who are not progressing at school, with the chance to turn things around.

In this non-traditional education setting, participants are taught about self-discipline, responsibility, and leadership while simultaneously working toward their high school or equivalent diploma.

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The community-based program is rather preventive than remedial and helps at-risk youth 16 to 18 years of age on a voluntary basis in a drug-free and crime-free environment.

Instructors in the program lead, train, educate, and mentor out-of-school youth, so they will become productive and contributing citizens in their communities.

Acclimation Period

First, applicants will go through a 2-week “Acclimation Period.” Then, they will enter the “Residential Phase,” where they will be introduced to the Youth ChalleNGe Program environment.

Candidates are learning to replace negative attitudes, behaviors, and skills, and they will be introduced to healthy routines and experiences on a daily basis in a disciplined and well-structured environment.

During this Acclimation Period, staff members and trainers continually assess the candidates’ potential to be successful in the next phase, the Residential Phase.

After the Acclimation Period, there will be a selection of which motivated Candidates can go on to enroll in the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program to become Cadets.

See also this post about another great program for young at-risk adults who join the YouthBuild USA Program, another great motivational and educational initiative!

Residential Phase

In the 5-month Residential Phase, they can adjust to the mental, social, and physical discipline that’s required to complete the Youth ChalleNGe Program successfully.

In this phase, the focus is on fellowship and leadership, teamwork, code of conduct, close-quarter drill, and physical fitness.

Candidates receive haircuts, relinquish personal items, and will exchange their personal clothes for uniforms. This places all participants on a level playing field.

Candidates Become Cadets

Usually, most selected Cadets successfully complete the program’s Residential Phase. In the first five months of the Residential Phase, they will be fully immersed in military training, which emphasizes structure, discipline, and consistency.

Now, Cadets experience schedules that focus on developing their academic, emotional, social, and basic life competencies. They will complete this phase with the values and skills required for transitioning and integrating into adult society successfully.

The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program accomplished this by implementing the so-called “Eight Core Components” that form the basis of the Youth ChalleNGe intervention model. See also: Can You Join the Army with a GED?


The Cadets are matched with mentors halfway the Residential Phase. These Mentors will help them during the remaining months of the Residential Phase to get ready for reentry into community life.

The mentors will continue their important duties and responsibilities for the following 12-month period, the Post-Residential Phase.

The Youth ChalleNGe Program uses the so-called “Youth-Initiated Mentoring Match” system. At the start of the program, applicants identify possible Mentors from their local communities.

These Mentors are formally screened, and if approved, they will receive training prior to being matched with their Mentees.

During the Residential Phase, the Cadets start to develop their relationship with the Mentors to discuss their future plans, and this process will continue for one year after they graduate.

After they have been formally matched, the Mentor and Cadet can spend time together off-site to perform, for example, community service activities or explore educational or employment options.

GED Preparation

All participants in the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program attend academic instruction on a daily basis to improve their reading comprehension and math skills.

They will be prepared to take the four independent subtests of the GED (General Education Development) exam. They may also be prepared for credit recovery or earning their high school diplomas.

During the Residential Phase, their grade level progress is assessed through the TABE testing method, the Tests of Adult Basic Education. Cadets are encouraged to explore future educational possibilities as well.

Health And Wellbeing

While participating in the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program, Cadets will learn all about the value of a well-balanced, healthy lifestyle.

The program provides a holistic approach where aspects of mental and physical well-being are combined.

Cadets will be educated about the effects of sexually transmitted diseases and substance abuse on their well-being and physical health. They will learn all about the emotional and physical benefits of good nutrition through structured group discussions and instructional classes.

Job Skills

During the program, the Cadets will be prepared for gainful, long-term employment. Career exploration is a key component of the program, which will be accomplished through training in vocational or career centers, personal interest inventories, and skills awareness and orientation training.

Cadets will enjoy specific classroom activities that focus on the development of their personal resumes, how to complete job applications, and how to go about job interviews. This experience may also come in handy if you, for example, are thinking about getting enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard with a GED.

Key Facts

Since 1993, the Youth ChalleNGe Program has helped to transform the lives of almost 180,000 at-risk youth. These positive results have impacted not only the lives of graduates but also their families and communities.

The program is among America’s most successful alternative education programs for people without a high school diploma and at-risk youth who don’t progress in traditional school settings.

More than 60% of Youth ChalleNGe graduates earned their high school or GED diplomas while participating in the program, and many graduates went on to continue their education in college.

Eligibility Requirements

To be allowed into the Youth ChalleNGe Program, applicants need to be in the 16-18 age group at the time they enter the program. They cannot be high school graduates or not progress in a traditional school setting.

Applicants must be U.S. citizens or legal residents who are unemployed or underemployed. They cannot be convicted of or accused of a crime that’s to be considered a felony for adults and not be on probation or parole.

They must be mentally and physically capable of participating in the Youth ChalleNGe Program and not use illegal drugs or substances.

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