SHEFFIELD, Texas – The Youth Challenge Program sponsored by the Texas National Guard, provides second chances to young people in Texas every semester.
The Texas Challenge Academy located in Sheffield, Texas, is designed to reclaim the potential of at-risk youth by training them to become successful, responsible, productive citizens through a program of mentoring, education, physical fitness, and volunteer service to the community. The program is open to young people ranging from 16 to 19 years old who have either dropped out of high school or who are in danger of doing so.
Cadets stay at the Academy for five and a half months during the residential phase of the program. They may attain their GED or high school diplomas, but also learn leadership skills and followership. They are taught responsible citizenship, job skills, critical life coping skills, substance abuse awareness, and how to develop positive personal relationships. Additionally a large part of the program is focused on physical fitness and service to the community. After graduation cadets return home and meet with a mentor every week for 12 months to keep their resolve to change their lives for the better.
"My life before Challenge was very chaotic. Everything I thought was cool – drugs, tagging but being in a gang was pointless," said Danny Gonzales, a successful cadet and graduate of the Texas Challenge Academy. "Now after being here at Challenge, I can say I have more structure. Challenge has helped me become a young man and I want to prove to my mom that I am different than I was before. I got accepted to Blinn Community College and I plan to attend in August. I got my diploma, my GED, and passed all of my tests. I’ll go down the right track from here."
There are many more stories like Danny’s. The Texas Challenge Academy’s success rate is more than 70%. That is especially impressive when one considers that as many as 50% of high school students in urban areas like Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio drop out every year in Texas. That is 119,000 dropouts in 2007 alone, according to a new study released by the National Center for Policy Analysis, Hispanic Council for Reform and Educational Options, and the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation.
Second chances are rare in life, but not in a National Guard sponsored program. The program is based on Equal Opportunity principles, free to the families served, and an accredited high school.
CUTLINE- TCA cadets at the Pre-Challenge graduation.