Challenge program wins award

Published 7:22 pm Monday, March 2, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Virginia Youth Challenge Program received the USO of Metropolitan Washington’s “Excellence in Responsible Citizenship” award at the program’s 2009 annual reception Thursday.

Sponsored by the National Guard Bureau and the Commonwealth of Virginia, the program leads trains, and mentors at-risk youth to become productive citizens.

“I applaud the Virginia Youth Challenge Program for its success in providing affirmative options for at-risk youth,” said Sen. Jim Webb. “This program demonstrates the important contributions these types of innovative educational programs can make to our youth and their communities in Virginia.”

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The National Guard Youth Challenge Program has been recognized as one of the nation’s most effective and cost-efficient efforts targeting youth who are at the greatest risk for substance abuse, teen pregnancy, delinquency, and involvement in criminal activities. The program consists of a 22-week educational phase, followed by a year-long residential phase in which cadets work with a mentor studying academics, citizenship, leadership, health education, physical fitness and community service.

The program is at risk for deletion from the budget because of the nation’s current budget woes. Scores of children from Suffolk have attended the program since its inception. Most recently, three Suffolk teens graduated from the program, and said they thought they had a better outlook on life thanks to the program.

Since the program’s establishment in Virginia in 1994, nearly 3,000 Virginia high-school dropouts who participated in it have entered the workforce, attended college or joined the military. The program’s facilities are located in Virginia Beach.