For two decades, the National Guard's ChalleNGe Youth Program has transformed the lives of more than 179,000 teens across the country, whose lives have veered off course. One of the most successful alternative education programs in the nation, the ChalleNGe Youth Academies develop academic, social, and life skills, build self-confidence and instill healthy habits that put teens on a trajectory to be productive citizens. More than half (60%) have earned their GED or high school diploma while in the program.

ChalleNGe Youth Program Works

An independent evaluation by MDRC found the Youth ChalleNGe Program has significant positive impacts on the educational attainment, employability, and income earning potential of those who drop out of school.

Graduates of the Youth ChalleNGe Program say it profoundly affects their attitudes about themselves and their progress to adulthood.

Approximately 75% of graduates earned their high school diploma, GED, or return to high school; nearly double the pass rate of other adult education programs.

On average, 34% of graduates pursue a higher education, 14% of graduates join the military, and 47% join the workforce.

As of February 2011, more than 100,000 students have graduated the program.

The Benefits

According to a cost-benefit analysis by the RAND Corporation, the estimated return on investment in the Youth ChalleNGe Program is 166% - substantially above that for many other social programs that target disadvantaged youth.

The ChalleNGe Program saves an average of $422 million in juvenile correction each year, based on an annual cost of $17,520 per NGYCP enrollee vs. an annual cost of $73,000 per youth in a correctional facility.

Program participants have donated over 6.6 million hours of service to the community since 1993.

On average, the incomes of those who participate in the Youth ChalleNGe Program are 20% higher than those who did not.

High School Dropouts

High school dropouts have a life expectancy of 9.2 years less than high school graduates.

High school dropouts can expect to earn about $10,000 less per year compared to a high school graduate.

High school dropouts are 3.5 times more likely than high school graduates to be arrested and 8 times more likely to be incarcerated.

More than two-thirds of state prison inmates are high school dropouts.

The Need

Roughly one-fifth of all students drop out of school before graduating high school.

The 1.3 million dropouts in 2010 will cost the nation more than $337 billion in lost wages over the course of their lifetimes.

The unemployment rate for high school dropouts in July 2011 was 7.7% compared to 5.3% for high school graduates.

Three-quarters of dropouts say if given a second chance they would have stayed in school.

The Discovery ChalleNGe Academy Results


Academy Graduates

6 Years



High school diploma recipients


Hours Serving the Community

Class Graduates Retention %
1 105/140 75%
2 126/147 86%
3 120/133 90%
4 129/146 88%
5 132/155 85%
6 135/148 91%
7* 134/188 71% * COVID
8 no class COVID
9 81/88 92% COVID
10 86/106 81% COVID
11 117/130 90% COVID
12 123/145 85%
1288/1526 84%

(Average retention rate, 12 classes)

(Post residential placement rate, 11 classes)


Academic Excellence

Leadership and followership

Health & hygiene

Physical fitness

Service to community

Job skills

Life coping skills

Responsible citizenship