Maj. Gen. Anthony Carrelli, Pennsylvania’s adjutant general and head of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA), recently announced the new Keystone State ChalleNGe Academy (KSCA), which formally establishes the National Guard Bureau’s Youth ChalleNGe Program in Pennsylvania.
In 2022, the KSCA will welcome its first class of at-risk youth ages 16-18 and provide them with an opportunity to get back on track academically and socially. The Academy will be located at Fort Indiantown Gap (FTIG) in Lebanon County.
“Too many times we see our youth lose their way with no formal opportunity to get back on track,” Carrelli said. “The Keystone State ChalleNGe Academy will be that second chance – teachers, counselors, and mentors providing a path to a bright future. Today’s youth are our leaders of tomorrow. We need to make stronger investments today to ensure they reach greater potential in the future. This program is successful in many other states; we are proud to finally bring it to Pennsylvania.”
The program accepts 16 to 18-year-old male and female high school dropouts who are drug-free and not in trouble with the law. The program lasts for 17 ½ months, with the first 5 ½ months consisting of residential training at FTIG followed by a year of mentorship throughout various communities. Cadets are introduced to the military structure and focus on eight core values: Academic Excellence; Physical Fitness; Leadership/Followership. Responsible; Citizenship; Job Skills; Service to the Community; Health and Hygiene; and Life Coping Skills. Graduates often receive a high school diploma or GED.
“The youth who become our cadets will be here as volunteers who want to be part of this program,” Brig. Gen. Stephen Radulski, KSCA director,said. “This shows from day one that they have the desire to succeed. We will tap into that desire to help each cadet achieve academic success. Ultimately, we all win by accepting at-risk youth back into the learning environment and enabling a new beginning and brighter future.”
The members of the KSCA Advisory Council are: Sen. Maria Collett, Sen. Doug Mastriano, Sen. Mike Regan, Rep. Timothy O’Neal, Rep. Stanley Saylor, Rep. Jake Wheatley Jr., Education Secretary Pedro A. Rivera, Maj. Gen. Carrelli (ex officio), Brig. Gen. Mike Regan, and Brig. Gen. Mark Schindler.
Since the program’s inception in 1993, more than 174,000 young people have completed the ChalleNGe program nationwide. This award-winning program has been recognized as one of the nation’s most effective and cost-efficient programs for targeting youth who are at the greatest risk for substance abuse, teen pregnancy, delinquency, and criminal activity.
The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program currently operates 41 sites in 30 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. The program is both federally and state funded. More details can be found at www.ngchallenge.org, and at www.ngyf.org.