In 1993, the Center for Strategic and
International Studies published a study entitled, Forging
a Military Youth Corps. That same year, Congress, acting
upon the studies recommendations, provided funding in the
1993 Defense Authorization Act for the National Guard Bureau
to conduct a pilot youth intervention program. The
purpose of this pilot program was to determine if life coping
skills and employability of a high school dropout could be
significantly improved through participation in a life skills
program using a military model.
Fifteen states became operational during
the first five-year pilot period with Illinois chosen as one
of the original pilot states. Currently, 25 states are
operating Youth Challenge Programs. Illinois has the largest
program with an annual target of 800 graduates. In May
of 2001, the Illinois program's name was changed from Lincoln's
ChalleNGe Program to Lincoln's ChalleNGe Academy.
The Lincoln's ChalleNGe Academy
is currently on its 16th class and starting its seventh year
of operation. The program has become immensely popular
and has the potential of providing thousands of "at-risk"
young men and women in Illinois with a new start.
Where traditional educational methods
have failed, the Lincoln's ChalleNGe Academy has succeeded
and proved to be a tremendous alternative for young people
who have the ability to excel, but need an intensive, structured
The graduates of the Lincoln's ChalleNGe
Academy are disciplined and accomplished. They are
on the road to becoming successful and contributing members
of society and their community.
Lincoln's ChalleNGe is an investment
in the future of Illinois communities. The cost to society
without this program could be much greater if our youth are
lost to unemployment, welfare, drugs, gangs or the judicial
system. Current federal legislation provides a full time commitment
to the Youth Challenge Programs across the nation.
However, each Challenge state will have
to pay a portion of their Youth Challenge Program's budget.
The future of the Lincoln's ChalleNGe Academy appears
promising, but it will require the support of the Governor,
the Illinois General Assembly and concerned agencies, organizations,
businesses and citizens. To see how you can help, visit our