United States Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., yesterday joined education experts and Department of Defense (DOD) officials at the National Press Club to release positive early findings from a study of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program. This initiative, which Sen. Landrieu has long supported, is designed to redirect and mentor high school dropouts and give them educational and career opportunities.
"If the stories of the program graduates were not compelling enough, the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program has now been proven successful with numerical statistics," said Sen. Landrieu. "This program provides an opportunity for at-risk youths to turn their lives around, helping to heal families and communities. I will continue to support this program and work towards providing it with the necessary funding for expansion so that one day the program will not have to turn down any applicants for cost-related reasons."
Additionally, Sen. Landrieu joined Sen. Lincoln, D-Ark., to discuss the need for Senate legislation (S.645) that would provide 100 percent federal funding for two years for new Youth ChalleNGe initiatives and reduce the amount states have to spend on already existing programs. Last year, the voluntary program turned away about 60 percent of applicants due to lack of funds. Currently, 15 states are actively seeking a new program or additional program sites.
The Lincoln-Landrieu bill language has been included in the annual defense authorization legislation passed by the Senate last week. Sen. Landrieu and 17 other senators have also asked for additional funding for the program, $25 million more than the President's requested $90 million.
The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe program currently operates in 33 states, including Louisiana, with an estimated 90,000 graduates since its start in 1993. Louisiana has three successful programs -- the most in any one state --with 1,050 youths per year completing the program.
More than 74 percent of ChalleNGe graduates have earned their high school diploma or equivalency, 30 percent have gone on to college, 25 percent have entered the military and the remaining graduates have gained career-related employment
The study released this week found the following early positive results:
o Youths who had completed the ChalleNGe program were 36 percent more likely to have obtained a high school diploma or a General Educational Development (GED) certificate than those who had not participated.
o Youths who had participated in ChalleNGe were more likely to be working and attending college than their peers who had not completed the program.
o ChalleNGe graduates reported a much higher level of self-efficacy and were less likely to have been arrested compared to at-risk youths who had not participated in the program.