HATTIESBURG, Miss - The National Guard Youth Challenge Program (YCP) helps teens obtain their GED in a unique way.
The National Guard Youth Foundation supports an evidence-based, cost-effective program that gives youth who have dropped out of school a second chance.
The youth have minimal contact with their family for 22 weeks and have a rigid regimen of studying, team building activities, and volunteering 7 days a week.
Director of YCP, Colonel William King says, "Personally it makes me feel good to know that I have helped changed, if nothing else, except one person's life."
Most of the teens had trouble in the school system, some hanging with the wrong crowd.
Cadet Jaylon Sandifer says, "I wanted to come because high school just was not for me. I am trying to change my whole lifestyle and try something good for me to do, instead of hanging out with the old friends of mine and find new friends."
The program's main focus is to help these teens receive quality education. YCP teacher, James Hardwick says, "When you get to see the light, they say 'Mr. Hardwick you do not teach like everyone else' and for me, I take it down to whether we have college academics, or first second grade level, our average with my teacher partner and I is about four of five grade levels from where we get them, so to watch them understand mathematics to understand science, to understand the language we are supposed to speak is fantastic."
The cadets also volunteer their time and efforts to local organizations.
Catherine Jorns of Christian Services says, "Through community service we learn to give back to the community and it builds us up and lets us know each individual person has that power within them to change their lives and others."
Cadet Dakota Lee mentions volunteering is good for onself.
"It makes me feel better because I have always been told that if you help other people you are able to take care of yourself, so if you help other people, more power to you right?"
One of the strongest aspects of this program is its military style training and learning.
YCP focuses on teamwork in order for the cadets to experience real life social lessons. The cadets are split into groups with other cadets and are given a physical obstacle they must pass as a group.
The group tests require critical and social thinking.
Assistant Supervisor Michael Droughn says, "All plans will not work, so I ask them not to discount everyones plan just because it does not work. To listen. To follow instructions. We give them a mission breach to make their plans work, once they get their mission breach they come up with a plan so they can successfully complete each of these obstacles."
Cadet Zane Long decided to change his life and sign up he says, "I like it because its a challenge, the youth challenge, it is not strict, but it is setting you on the right foot, the right path."
The Missisippi YCP has graduated 43 classes for a total of 8,422 graduates.