By 1st Lt. Jacob Carrasco
Disctrict of Columbia National Guard Public Affairs
It can be a hard knock, challenging life, and the Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy offers a second chance to struggling youth.
At 10 a.m. sharp, participants reported in to Camp Schwartz located in Laurel, Md., July 13. While at Camp Schwartz, they will begin their journey in a five month program that will hopefully end in each candidate receiving their GED.
The CGYCA is a military-style, life intervention, dropout reintegration as well as GED preparatory program open to youths who are between 16-18 years old.
During the program, participants will learn eight core life skills designed to help them become more successful in life. The program is entering its 53rd iteration and had a total of 99 applicants for the current class.
The first day of the program focused on in-processing the participants, and 90 of the applicants are expected to show up. Raynald Blackwell, CGYCA program director, outlines their military-style in-processing.
“Today is focused on getting them accustomed to the military lifestyle – the guys are going to get their haircuts, and then they’re going to go to the barracks learn to make their bunks,” he said.
Program attendees have a diverse background and many have different motivations for joining the program. For Zamarke Jones, he hopes to gain valuable skills to structure his life. Jones’ guardian, Paula Jones, brought him to the academy.
“I’m hoping the program will help him build on his structure, give him his education and learn about discipline… and he hopes to move on to serve in the military or go to college,” explained Paula.
Paula first learned about the program five years ago when he other nephew, Daikwon Jones, attended the academy. The academy helped Daikwan in earn his GED and he eventually went onto complete an associate program through the University of the District of Columbia in Washington.
“Daikwon said the youth program was the best thing that had ever happened to him,” added Paula.
The program hopes to see less than a 30 percent attrition rate and any successful candidates, according to Blackwell.
During the five month residential phase, students attend daily classes with certified instructors and work at their own pace to improve math and reading skills to increase their grade level. Those students who meet state eligibility requirements are provided the opportunity to test for their high school equivalency diploma, according to the youth program’s website.
Through structure and guidance provided by the Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy, youth are set up for success to develop skillsets to become self-disciplined and confident young adults. Check out http://cgyca.org/ for more information on the youth program.