An estimated five million Americans between the ages of 16 and 24 are both out of school and unemployed. These youth are more likely than those who work or complete a degree to face long-term unemployment, permanent school dropout, welfare dependence, and criminal involvement and incarceration. The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program was developed in the early 1990s to improve the employment and life prospects of youth, ages 16 to 18, who have dropped out of high school and have not found a place in the labor market. It currently operates in 27 states and Puerto Rico, and has served more than 100,000 youth over its history.
ChalleNGe was designed on the premise that programs for at-risk youth must provide comprehensive, long-term instruction and assistance. It builds on a positive youth development model and includes a wide array of activities designed to strengthen young people’s preparedness for work and adult responsibilities. Data from the states in which ChalleNGe operates suggest that the program has strong potential to make a positive difference in participants’ lives.
MDRC, in partnership with the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on the Transition to Adulthood, conducted an evaluation of ChalleNGe study in 10 ChalleNGe sites found that, after three years, participants were more likely than their control group counterparts to have obtained a GED or high school diploma, to have earned college credits, and to be working. Their earnings are also 20 percent higher.