This report analyzes the results of the National Guard’s Youth ChalleNGe program, which targets high school dropouts between ages 16 and 19 who are unemployed, drug-free and are not currently on parole or probation for anything other than juvenile offenses.
The program requirements also state that applicants must not be serving time or awaiting sentencing during the application or participation process, and that they have never been convicted of a felony or capital offense.
The program features a 22-week residential phase, followed up by a one-year mentoring relationship with a trained member from each youth’s respective community. Core elements of the Youth ChalleNGe include academic excellence, responsible citizenship, serving the community, job skills training, and leadership, among others.
The federal government funds 75 percent of the operational costs of ChalleNGe sites; states are responsible for funding the rest. There are currently 34 programs operated in 28 states and Puerto Rico, and Idaho is set to open an academy in 2012.
MDRC administered a comprehensive survey to 1,200 former participants and to a control group of youth who applied to the programs and were qualified to attend but were not invited because of capacity issues.
Results from the surveys indicated that ChalleNGe graduates were much more likely than those in the control group to have obtained a General Education Development (GED) certificate or a high school diploma, and to have earned college credits. Members of the program were also more likely to be employed at the time of the survey, and they earned 20 percent more than those in the control group in the year before the survey.
There were few statistically significant differences between groups on measures of crime, health, delinquency, or lifestyle outcomes. The survey did not find any groups in which the ChalleNGe participants fared worse than those in the control group.
The majority of ChalleNGe graduates told interviewers that they have difficulty after leaving the residential program and returning home, where they often had few supports and faced stiff job competition.
The report notes that ChalleNGe is an example of a program that already achieves impressive results, but could be improved even more especially for the long term well-being and success of program graduates.
For the full, free 108 page report click here.