Help Dropouts Graduate
National Guard Patriot Academy
Butlerville, Ind.800-237-2850, ext. 41898
The Strategy: Help high school dropouts obtain their high school diplomas, and provide them with military and life skills training, employment preparation and post-secondary educational opportunities.
Getting Started: The National Guard Patriot Academy is the brainchild of retired Gen. Clyde A. Vaughn, former director of the Army National Guard. Concerned about the growing rate of U.S. high school dropouts, he initiated development of the academy in 2005. Vaughn also wanted to help youth who drop out of school with the expectation they can join the military, but they can’t without a high school diploma. The academy, which is located at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center, in Butlerville, welcomed its first class of students in 2009.
How It Works: At the same time students enroll in the academy they are admitted into the Army National Guard. The academy is the only opportunity in the country for youth without a high school diploma to enlist. In order to enter the academy, a student cannot be lacking more than nine credits (about a year in Indiana), as the program is designed for students to earn a high school diploma within three to six months.
An accredited boarding high school, the academy offers classes in 16 subjects, including English, geometry, algebra, social studies, U.S. government and history, and world history. Each student is issued a laptop on entry, and each uses his or her laptop to take accredited online classes through Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. Each class is scheduled for 75 minutes, and in addition to the online instructor, a licensed teacher is in the actual classroom to assist students having trouble with their lessons. Successful completion earns the student a high school diploma.
Each day, the students also have military training in subjects such as navigation or combat life-saving, and they participate in physical fitness training six days a week. On Saturdays, students often participate in community service projects and must complete eight hours in order to graduate.
Enrollment in the academy includes an eight-year commitment to serve in the National Guard in the student’s home state, and students can also take dual enrollment courses or courses for college credit while at the academy. “As soon as they enlist, they’re getting paid to get their diploma,” says Col. Perry Sarver Jr., Patriot Academy commandant.
Youth Served: Last year, 38 of the 47 students graduated from the academy with high school diplomas. This year, 230 students are enrolled. Students must be 17 to 20 years old to enroll. The academy’s first class was all male, but this year’s class is 11 percent female. Almost 20 percent of the students are from minority groups, including African-, Asian-, and Hispanic-Americans. All enrollees must have completed at least through their junior year of high school. Most are young people who have left school to get jobs to help support their families in times of economic crisis or medical problems. Students come from all over the U.S. Currently, students from 40 of the 54 U.S. states and territories are enrolled.
Staff: The academy has 64 staff members, including two guidance counselors who are available to mentor students through the process of pursuing post-secondary educational opportunities or career preparation and training.
Cost: The cost to operate the academy averages $13,000 per student and is funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.
Results: The young program has not started tracking students’ progress, but Sarver says he expects longitudinal studies on how many students go on to college and/or careers after graduation.
Develop Leadership Skills
California Cadet Corps
The Strategy: Promote character development and leadership skills through classroom instruction in military and citizenship topics, training in the field and statewide competitions.
Getting Started: The California Cadet Corps (CACC) was founded in 1911, through the efforts of the governor and the adjutant general of the California National Guard. as a three- to four-year training program within public high schools to develop commissioned officers for the U.S. Army. Since the Vietnam era, however, the corps’ focus has shifted away from preparing youth for military service and instead emphasizes leadership, character and citizenship development. “We’re not at all about getting kids into the military any more,” says Lt. Col. Mark Ryan, the assistant executive officer of the CACC. The CACC is one of several youth programs of the California National Guard.
How It Works: Youth can join the program at any point during their elementary, middle or high school years and can participate for as long as they wish. “Whoever wants to be in it can be in it,” Ryan says. The CACC has a presence in about 100 public schools in California, and the classroom portion of the training usually takes place during the school day as an elective, physical education or vocational credit class.
Students take CACC classes five days a week; classes include physical fitness training as well as such basic military subjects as drill, ceremony and marching instruction, map reading, first aid and leadership theory. Every four to six weeks, cadets participate in field-based training, when they take leadership training courses on a nearby military base or engage in extracurricular activities such as whitewater rafting or camping trips. “Kids are looking for ways to do stuff that is fun,” Ryan says. “The activities offer the hook, and it’s a real motivator.”
Throughout the year, cadets can also participate in statewide events at which corps from all over California compete in marksmanship skills, academic contests and drill competitions. “We offer a tangible system of rewards,” Ryan says. “You pass a test, you get a stripe. You participate in a competition, you get a ribbon for your uniform.”
Ryan says one reason the CACC is popular is that it offers youth a way to belong to something larger than themselves without being in a gang. “And kids actually get to be in charge of other kids,” he says. “You can be a platoon leader in charge of 20 other kids on a camping trip. Feeling responsible for your peers translates into being responsible at school and at home.”
Youth Served: CACC has about 7,500 participants each year. “For the most part, they are kids of color in lower economic status,” Ryan says. Some 80 percent of cadets qualify for free or reduced lunch programs. Ryan says CACC was not designed as a program for at-risk youth, but its presence close to pockets of poverty in California’s major cities accounts for the participation of young people who might otherwise end up in gangs or with fewer opportunities for education and careers.
Staff: CACC is mainly a volunteer-run organization with about 200 adult volunteers across California. The state leadership consists of 10 volunteer leaders, including Ryan. Schools generally provide the classroom teachers who teach the classes either as part of their regular salary, paid by the school, or as volunteers.
Cost: The state of California funds CACC with about $300,000 a year, and the corps supplements that budget with donations from individuals and with volunteer staff.
Results: A recent study Ryan conducted of 100 cadets who had participated in CACC for five or more years showed that cadets attended 12 more days of school a year than the average non-cadet student in the state of California, and most graduated with grade-point averages of 3.8 or higher. Cadets also showed themselves three times as likely to score at the proficient or advanced levels on California Standards Tests. When compared with state averages, they were almost twice as likely to pass the Fitnessgram, the physical fitness assessment test administered by California’s public schools.
A larger study of 6,000 cadets 10 years ago showed that 86 percent went on to pursue higher education, though only 3 percent actually went on to serve in the military. “We continue to emphasize college prep,” Ryan says. “We believe a college education is the way to get out of a poor economic situation.”
U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps-Alexandria Division
The Strategy: Help teenagers build confidence through basic naval training and advanced skills training.
Getting Started: The U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps was formally established by Congress in 1962, modeled on a program begun in Chicago by the secretary of the Navy and the U.S. Navy League. The program has some 300 units around the country, including the Alexandria Division, and is organized like the U.S. Navy Reserves, with participants serving one weekend per month and then participating in advanced training for two to four weeks per year.
How It Works: Sea Cadets participate in one drill weekend per month at a military installation near their hometowns, beginning at the rank of Seaman Recruit. They all wear Navy uniforms marked with the Sea Cadet Corps insignia. In order to advance through the ranks, youth must complete the Nonresident Training Course (NRTC) for that rate (the military term for rank). Upon completion of training, participants can advance to the rate of E-2, or seaman apprentice, and all the way up to the rate of E-6, a chief petty officer. The rates parallel those of the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard.
All participants go through an initial two-week boot camp that resembles that of the U.S. Navy and consists of training in military drill, discipline, physical fitness, seamanship, ship safety, first aid, naval history and leadership skills. After boot camp, participants can participate in advanced training at various military installations around the country, such as the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, where they can choose from a variety of courses, including FAA ground school, marksmanship training, photojournalism and sailing school. Boot camp and advanced training are typically held over summer breaks and also during winter and spring breaks.
Youth advance by completing advanced training courses, exhibiting strong military bearing and actively participating in Corps activities. “Advancement is based on the same things the Navy looks for,” says Lt. Cmdr. Vinson Nash, the commanding officer of the Alexandria Division of the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps.
Youth Served: The Alexandria Division has 40 to 45 participating cadets; the national program has about 10,000 participants every year. Nash says the Alexandria Division is ethnically diverse but the youth are not typically those defined as “at-risk,” though many come from low-income families. Many are the children of Navy Reservists or other military families in the Washington, D.C., metro area. “This is not a remedial program,” Nash says. “They are motivated kids if they stick with it.” Youth must be 13 to 17 years old to participate.
Staff: The Alexandria Division is staffed by eight volunteers, and more than half are active or retired military.
Cost: Nash says the Alexandria Division’s program costs about $250 per cadet per year and operates on an annual budget of $6,000 to $8,000. The program is funded by the National Capital Council of the U.S. Navy League.
Results: Nash says most of the youth in his unit are college-bound, though one or two each year go on to enlist in the military. The U.S. Navy will accept them at the rate they achieved in the Sea Cadet Corps. Nash says 10 percent of cadets nationwide go on to attend the United States Naval Academy. “It’s a good gang to belong to,” Nash says. “You can see a change in confidence in these kids, and if they’re successful, they get hooked.”