The school day starts at 4 a.m. for high school dropouts in Los Alamitos, California. It’s referred to as the “Shark Attack.” The Youth ChalleNGe Academy is one of 35 such schools in 29 states run by the United States National Guard. To date over 120,000 teens between 16-18, both boys and girls, have volunteered to attend the 17-month course.
For youths who have had a difficult time in public school due to drug abuse, violence, family issues, or a life that for various reasons has not gone well, this is a viable second start. Many teens also lack the discipline, work ethic, and moral fiber to sustain them as a positive contributor to society and provider for a future family.
The National Guard school provides structure, discipline, education, and life skills. Even though they are run with a military-style regiment, including living in barracks and uniforms, they are meant to be mostly an “academic boot camp.” Cadets spend eight hours a day “in the books.” This is combined with a tough-love approach. These academies came about as a result of a 1993 Congressional mandate directed at confronting the drop out problem. Their success can be seen by reading numerous stories on the internet and by the fact that 90 percent of those who complete the program have secured jobs or have gone on to college. Many students have seen their grades soar along with a strong work ethic, discipline, and vision of hope for their lives. The program has eight core components: academic excellence, leadership, life coping skills, job skills, community service, responsible citizenship, health and hygiene, and physical fitness.
The cost for this National Guard schooling is nothing and graduates are eligible for college scholarships. However, it is priceless for a life turned around from drugs, abuse, or a host of other negative factors to moving forward into a new renewed future.
As successful as this program is, discipline for life doesn’t stop here. There is a spiritual element involved. As Christians we are to discipline ourselves “for the purpose of godliness,” it says in I Timothy 4:7. We need to sign up for “spiritual” boot camp to be strong in our faith.
The two factors that make this a heartwarming story is not only the huge success of the school but also the fact that all of the students voluntarily enroll. None of them are made to go or stay the course to completion.