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Youth Challenge

The United States Congress in 1993 mandated the National Guard Bureau to design a federal program to address the millions of children who have dropped out of high school. The result is a joint federal-state partnership called the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program (NGYCP) that has produced extraordinary results. Since 1993, this program has helped over 140,000 of our nation’s high school dropouts become productive. This voluntary 22-week program enhances life skills, education levels, employment potential, and prospects for the future by providing the assistance, training and opportunity for students to earn their high school diploma or GED, at no cost to the young person’s family. The dedicated National Guard cadre, teachers, volunteer parents and mentors provide a strong level of discipline, life skills, and leadership training coupled with a high educational component. There are 40 programs located in 28 states, Washington, DC and Puerto Rico.


1. A study by the MDRC in July 2011 stated that ChalleNGe participants achieve “impressive results” in educational attainment and employability. Participants are 29 percent more likely to earn a high school diploma or GED and 86 percent more likely to take college courses and earn approximately 20 percent higher wages than dropouts who do not participate in ChalleNGe. 

2. RAND Corporation in February 2012 conducted a cost-benefit analysis, based on the MRDC study of ChalleNGe. RAND found that every dollar spent on the program results in a return of $2.66, a yield of 166 percent return on investment. These rigorous evaluations show significant positive impacts by the ChalleNGe on the lives of those who have dropped out of school, with compelling returns on investment.

Cong. Youth ChalleNGe Caucus

The Congresswoman is a co-chair of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Caucus, along with her Republican counterpart Congressman David McKinley (WV-01). The caucus provides a forum for Members of Congress and their staff to learn more about this program and work towards solutions to address the epidemic of high school dropouts. 

California Programs

California has three NGYCP’s: the Sunburst Youth Academy located on the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos, the Grizzly Youth Academy is located at Camp San Luis Obispo, and the recently opened Discovery ChalleNGe Academy in Stockton. Sunburst/Grizzly/Discovery accommodates 550+ resident students in five and a half month cycles, providing physical training, discipline and academics throughout the entire program. California’s programs have graduated over 7000 cadets. Recent statistics:

  • 100% of graduates earned a minimum of 55 high school credits during the residential phase
  • 36% received their high school diploma or GED
  • 33% joined the workforce
  • 63% continue education
  • 3% serve in the military
  • Cadets provided approx. 20,000 hours of community service
  • Exceed graduation targets by approx. 16 cadets per class
  • Highest retention in the nation with an average of 93%


CBS Evening News w/ Scott Pelley

Recently produced a 7 part series on the Sunburst Youth Academy, which can be seen here:

More on Youth Challenge

July 24, 2013 Press Release

(Washington, D.C.) Yesterday, Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32) applauded the first step in the adoption of a National Guard Youth Foundation amendment to H.R. 2397, the Defense Appropriations Act of 2014. Napolitano was a cosponsor of the bipartisan amendment offered by Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), which gives an additional $10 million to the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program (NGYCP).

April 16, 2012 Press Release

(Washington, D.C.) Today, Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA), announced the creation of a new, bipartisan Congressional National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Caucus, made up of lawmakers who are dedicated to supporting the National Guard’s Youth ChalleNGe program, which is a voluntary, disciplined educational program that has allowed thousands of high-school dropouts to earn their GED. Napolitano is a co-chair of the bipartisan caucus, along with Reps. Lois Capps (D-CA), David McKinley (R-WV), and Danny Rehberg (R-MT).

March 10, 2011 Press Release

(Washington D.C.)- On Tuesday, March 1, Rep. Grace F. Napolitano was honored by the National Guard Youth Foundation for her strong support and advocacy for the Youth ChalleNGe Program in her area and in the halls of Congress.

“To date, Youth ChalleNGe has graduated 104,000 cadets,” Napolitano said. “These are students who might otherwise have dropped out of school but instead were supported as they charted a newer, brighter path through life. It has been an honor to assist this program and its exemplary efforts to help our young people, our future leaders.”