HARRISBURG—On Monday, the Pennsylvania Senate unanimously passed Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf’s (R-12) SB 52 which would bring the National Guard Youth Challenge Program to Pennsylvania. The program is aimed at helping high school drop outs earn their diploma.
The program began in 1993 through an act of Congress as a 10 state pilot program to help at-risk youth gain work experience and earn their high school diploma or equivalent. The program focuses on improving basic life skills and promoting fellowship and good citizenship through military based training and supervised work experience for youth between the ages of 16 and 18. In 1998, Congress made the program permanent.
“When I learned about this program, I immediately saw the value it can bring to Pennsylvania,” said Senator Greenleaf. “With federal funding, we can easily have this tool to help reach at-risk and troubled youth. So many young lives can be put back on track with some simple guidance and training if they just had somewhere to go. Furthermore, the program saves taxpayer dollars spent on juvenile detention programs and adult incarceration.”
The bill directs the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to apply for federal funding for the program.
The program includes 22 weeks of residency for eligible participants, and an additional 12 month post-residential mentoring period. Participants must be residents of PA, and not attending secondary school. Those with felony convictions are barred from the program as well as those on parole or probation. All shall be subject to drug testing.
In 2011, the National Guard reported graduating 4,411 students, with over 54% of those graduates earning a high school diploma or GED; 47% joining the work force; 9% joining the military; and nearly 44% continuing their education.
For every dollar invested, there is a $2.66 return. In the long term, the public will save money on juvenile detention programs and adult incarceration.
There are currently 40 youth challenge programs operating in 28 states.
The Senate has passed this legislation in prior sessions.