Graduates of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe program performed more than $14 million worth of service to their communities in 2017-2018, according to a new RAND Corporation report.
The report is part of an ongoing analysis of the ChalleNGe program aimed at gathering and analyzing data from the program and to identify longer-term metrics for the overall effectiveness of the program.
The ChalleNGe program is a 5-1/2 month, in-residence course for at-risk 16- to 18-year-olds designed to teach them life skills and self-discipline. It is supported with federal funds and oversight from state National Guard organizations.
The RAND report found that the number of ChalleNGe participants has been on a slight rise in recent years, while graduation rates have remained constant.
Two classes of cadets who entered the program in 2017 produced nearly 10,000 candidates, the report states. Nearly two-thirds of those graduates received at least one academic credential. As a whole, the cadets also contributed nearly 600,000 service hours.
The program was created in 1993. Since that time, more than 173,000 student cadets have graduated from the course. In all, the program has contributed service hours valued at $224 million to local communities.
The RAND team is seeking to find the best ways to track the progress of program sites and implement improvements. It also plans to study how ChalleNGe graduates compare with similar youth who do not participate in the program and identify the biggest challenges facing program staff.
The most recent report found that programs face an ongoing challenge in promoting robust and enduring relationships between mentors and cadet mentees. Data shows those interactions drop off significantly within a few months of a program’s completion.
Officials suggest more training for mentors and better tracking of mentor-mentee interactions could shed light on those relationships and how to keep them strong.
The full report is available online at RAND.org/.