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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.

moving forward

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 environment.

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 Volunteer or Contribute sections.