Every day in the US, 2800 students drop out of school. Each year, 87% of incarcerated individuals in Mississippi did not graduate from high school. For those students who didn't make it in the traditional classroom, there's the National Guard Youth Challenge Program.
During the 22 week program, the students live in a structure military environment at Camp Shelby, with the major goal of passing the GED test. Saturday, at the graduation ceremony, 206 cadets graduated the 17th program, and more than 4,000 spectators came to show their support.
All the students in the program dropped out of high school for one reason or another. They later signed up for the youth challenge program. Now graduating with a GED, the future is looking bright.
"Before I came to Youth Challenge, I was into drugs, into going out with the wrong crowd. I was never a problem for my mom, but I was kinda pushed away by some friends who I thought were really friends. And my life was really off track," Graduate Trumaine Luckett said.
The program isn't a boot camp, but a different type of learning atmosphere, with of course, an ample amount of discipline.
"A lot of the interferences are taken away from them. We're a structured program, and they live and work and study at Camp Shelby, so we have more discipline and more control over them," Youth Challenge Director Dr. Bill Crowson said.
"It's more structured. Everything has a positive influence. Instead of being at school where you might have a lot of peer pressure, you don't have peer pressure here," Valedictorian Anne Besse said.
The program is about the future. As the program reads, 'We Are the Future.' The cadets can now go on to the workforce, college, or the military.
"Before I came here I had low self esteem. Now I've really brought it up, and I'm ready to go. I've joined the Army and I'm ready to go to boot camp," Besse said.
"I've already joined the Navy, so I'm looking at going into the military and bettering myself," Luckett said.
For more information about the program click here , or call 1-800-507-6253. You may also write to:
Youth Challenge Program
Camp Shelby, MS 39407