Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Who is eligible to attend a National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Academy?

Students must be a high school dropout or expelled, and be 16-18 years old by the start of the Academy Cycle. The applicant must never have been convicted of a felony and have no legal action pending, will to become drug-free and physically and mentally able to complete the program.

How much does it cost?

Our program is free. The Department of Defense (DOD) and the State of California split the $22,000 cost per cadet with the split being 75% funded by the DOD and 25% funded by the State of California. There is some minimal cost associated with attendance. ie. Socks, shoes, t-shirts, sweatpants, etc.

Does ChalleNGe accept cadets under the age of 16?

ChalleNGe cannot accept cadets under 16. There are no exceptions. 

Does ChalleNGe accept cadets over the age of 18?

No, applicants must be at least 16 years old and no more than 18 years old (the applicant can turn 19 years old before graduation day).

What is the cost to attend Discovery ChalleNGe Academy (DCA)?

The Discovery ChalleNGe Academy, as part of the National Guard Youth Challenge Program, is operated through a Cooperative Agreement between the National Guard Bureau and the State of California. This means it is funded by Federal and State dollars making tuition absolutely free to eligible youth. This investment in our youth has a return of 166% in social benefits. The Youth ChallenNGe Program was started in 1993 as a federal-state partnership to help high school dropouts improve their education level, life skills, and employment potential. The program, which is operated by the National Guard in partnership with state and local education agencies, has been extremely successful.

How does the program operate?

Youth ChalleNGe is a residential program that incorporates a highly structured quasi-military format emphasizing self-discipline, personal responsibility, and positive motivation. Students, who are referred to as cadets while at the Academy, must meet military grooming standards, wear military-type uniforms, and observe standard military customs and courtesies. Each class involves a 3-phase program that begins with a two-week Acclimation phase where the goal is to identify those students that have the desire and discipline to complete the program. Students who successfully complete the Acclimation phase enter the 20-week Challenge phase where the emphasis is on the “Eight Core Component” curriculum. Cadets must show improvement in each component.

Eight Core Components:
Academic Excellence
Leadership and Followership
Life Coping Skills
Job Skills
Service to the Community
Responsible Citizenship
Health and Hygiene
Physical Fitness

After completing the Challenge phase, students begin a 52-week Post-Residential phase where each student works with an adult role model in a one-on-one mentoring relationship. The adult mentor provides the student advice, guidance, and support to help him/her continue the positive successes and direction achieved during the Challenge phase.

Is this a way for my child to join the Military?

No. The Discovery ChalleNGe Academy is a military-style alternative educational program. Students cannot be sentenced or court ordered to attend or is there any military obligation at all. Only 6% of our graduates ever join the Military. The decision to attend should be made by the applicant. Each year a diverse group of teenagers from all across the state, and from all walks of life successfully complete the program.

Can I force my child to attend the program?

No. This program is 100% voluntary. No parent, court, judge or probation officer can force the child to come. The child must make the decision to attend the program.

We don't live in Northern California, can my child still enroll?

The Discovery ChalleNGe Academy is limited to work with students only in Northern California. Click the link below to visit our National Website to find our sister programs.

How do you enroll in the program?

The first step of the enrollment process is to attend one of our mandatory orientations. Click the link below to sign up for our next orientation.

Is Discovery ChalleNGe Academy a treatment facility?

No, Discovery is a residential High School run by the California National Guard partnered with the San Joaquin Office of Education. Discovery is not a therapeutic environment or a treatment facility.