The Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy (CGYCA), located in Laurel, Md. is a life intervention, dropout reintegration, and General Education Development (GED) preparatory program, run by the District of Columbia National Guard in partnership with the Office of the State Superintendent of Education for the District of Columbia.
The D.C. National Guard has always served its community, but began to invest in local youth more directly in 1968 when the first Youth Leaders Camp was held.
During the 1990’s, the Rockefeller Foundation saw the need to provide opportunities for young people in the United States working to overcome problems in their lives. In 1991 the Joint Armed Services Committee directed the National Guard to determine how best to add value to America by providing value, skills, education and self-discipline to young people, while incorporating the structure and esprit de corps found in the military model. A five-year ChalleNGe Pilot Program began operating in 1993 in 10 states under Public Law 102-484. ChalleNGe has since been embraced by more than 27 states and the District of Columbia.
Prior to 2013, the D.C. National Guard conducted the CGYCA in partnership with the Maryland National Guard. On average the D.C. National Guard was sponsoring about 10 graduates per class, although estimates showed that the D.C. National Guard should have been averaging about 30. Citing the District’s unique population and need for their own facility, the D.C. National Guard was passionate about finding a permanent location that could produce greater results.
In 2013, a 40-acre rehabilitated detention center owned by the District of Columbia government was turned into a 16-building, state-of-the art educational campus for the District of Columbia National Guard’s CGYCA and in 2013, the CCGYC was recognized as an independent program. Fifty-one youths were members of the first graduating class at the new facility on Dec. 11, 2013.
The academy is a 5 1/2 month long residential “military style” academy structured to promote an academic environment where students will earn a District of Columbia High School Diploma, develop leadership, job skills, and academic skills, while improving self-esteem, pride, and confidence.
Now in its fourth year of operation, the campus was renamed Camp Schwartz, MG Errol R. Schwartz, District of Columbia National Guard Training Site in honor of its biggest proponent on May 15, 2017. The road leading to Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz Youth Challenge Facility was also renamed: MG Errol R. Schwartz Way. The dedication also included a groundbreaking on a large construction phase on the 30-acre site, a training facility for Soldiers and Airmen within the D.C. National Guard.