What is the National Guard Youth Challenge Program?

The National Guard Youth Challenge Program consists of a multi-phased intervention program; targets high school dropouts between the ages of 16 and 18; is comprised of a structured, disciplined 5 1/2-month Residential Phase focusing on education and practical life skills followed by a 12-month Post-Residential Phase involving skilled and trained Mentors supporting Graduates engaged in positive, durable placement.

How can my child apply to Challenge?

Prospective cadets should contact the Admissions department to determine eligibility, learn about specific application requirements and deadlines. Click here to see the application steps for Montana Youth Challenge Academy.

Can cadets return to High School after graduating from the Challenge program?

In many cases, the answer is yes.  Your local school board can award high school diplomas.  School boards can review the curriculum and may award credits to students for many accomplishments:  Math, English, Science, Social Studies, character development, health, civics, employability-skills, career awareness, physical training, service to community projects, leadership classes, followership classes, financial literacy, and mentoring. 

My child does not have a mentor. How do I find one?

Submit the rest of the application while you continue to search for a mentor. We recommend contacting your local American Legions, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Lions Club, church, school, neighbors and friends. As long as they are not immediate family (or living in the same household), you can ask just about anyone that will meet the eligibility requirements and most importantly, be a good role model for child. Your Admission’s Counselor can make suggestions to help you in the search, but they are not responsible for finding you a mentor. 

When can I visit my cadet?

Approximately eight weeks and again around week twelve. Family Days are hosted so that you may visit your cadet on-site for a day. One of the days will be structured as a Parent/Teacher conference to discuss your child's progress in the eight core components. Home visits are scheduled near the end of the cycle to allow cadets to visit home and initiate the goals they have set post graduation. For example: applying for jobs and submitting resumes. 

Is military service required upon completion of the Challenge program?

No. Although Challenge is ‘quasi-military’ in structure, cadets are not obligated or expected to join the service.

Is military service an option after graduating from the Challenge program?

If military service is a goal post-graduation, cadets will be provided with opportunities to learn more about how to prepare themselves for the possibility of military service

Is this a voluntary program?

YES. All youth participating in Challenge must do so VOLUNTARILY.

Are there any costs to participants of this program?

NO. This program is offered free of charge to its participants.

What is the cost per student and who pays for it?

The National Guard Youth Challenge Program is one of the most cost-effective programs for at-risk youth in the nation. The value of attendance is estimated at $20,000 for each youth to complete the 17 1/2-month program. These funds are provided by a partnership between the state and federal governments, providing a tuition-free program to all attendees. 

When did the program begin?

The National Guard Youth Challenge Program began as a ten-state pilot program in 1993 by an act of Congress. In 1998, following a comprehensive evaluation, Congress approved the Challenge program as a permanent program.

What are the plans for the Challenge program?

It is hoped that the National Guard Youth Challenge program will be extended to all states that wish to have one. Each year, new states are added. It is expected that the program serves as many as 20,000 new mentoring relationships nationwide each year. 

What is the purpose of Challenge?

The purpose of the Challenge Program is to develop the life skills, educational levels, and employment potential of at-risk youth through a structured intervention model. Completing high school level education (or equivalency) greatly improves positive life outcomes for young adults including: improves rates of employment, greater income earnings, lessens the probability of involvement with the criminal justice system, and longer life expectancy.