Keeping kids on right track

Published 9:27 pm Monday, October 6, 2008

Keeping, or in some cases, getting our kids on the right track should be a priority for any family, any community.

Thanks to federal and state dollars, there is a program for Suffolk kids and others throughout Virginia to be part of that will get them on the right track.

The Commonwealth ChalleNGe is a program run by the National Guard for at-risk young people ages 16 to 18. The two-part program includes a 22-week, quasi-military residential phase followed by a year-long post-residential phase. During the residential program, cadets, as the students are called, learn life-coping skills, work skills, citizenship, leadership, health and fitness and community service skills while taking classes to work toward a General Education Diploma. The second portion of the program is built around a mentoring relationship established during the residential phase. The mentor will help them follow through with the life plan, whether it be continued education, employment or military service, established during the residential phase.

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“It refocuses them, gives them a second chance,” said Col. Thomas Early, one of the many people with a military background who help run the program.

This program is one that benefits the kids involved. They are provided options, confidence and an outlook toward life and what they can achieve that, without the program, might not have existed.

The program also benefits the families involved and creates good stewards for the communities where these cadets live. Government gets grief for all of its misuse of money, but this is one of those scenarios where the money couldn’t have been put to better use.