The Sunburst Youth ChalleNGe Academy (SYA) is a community-based program that leads, trains, and mentors at-risk youth so that they may become productive citizens in America’s future. This award-winning program has been recognized as one of the nation’s most effective and cost efficient programs for targeting youth who are at the greatest risk for substances abuse, teen pregnancy, delinquency, and criminal activity. Positive youth development is a process which prepares young people to meet the challenges of adolescence and adulthood through a coordinated, progressive series of activities and experiences that help them to become socially, morally, emotionally, physically, and cognitively competent. By design, the ChalleNGe program is a youth development intervention. According to Dan Donahue, creator of the ChalleNGe model, the intention is to create an environment in which the “whole person” can learn and thrive. The Sunburst Youth ChalleNGe Academy is a Federal- and State-funded youth intervention program that targets high school dropouts between the ages of 16 and 18. Program staff members intervene in the lives of program participants to develop skills that will produce program graduates with the values, education, and self-discipline necessary to succeed as productive citizens. The Sunburst Youth ChalleNGe Academy consists of two phases. The first is a discipline structured 5½ month Residential Phase focusing on increasing educational levels and developing practical life skills. The ChalleNGe model takes a holistic approach to youth development, emphasizing eight core components (Academic Excellence, Life Coping Skills, Job Skills, Health and Hygiene, Responsible Citizenship, Service to Community, Leadership/Followership, & Physical Fitness) that are crucial for personal, professional, and civic growth. Upon completion of the Residential Phase, Cadets have learned the requisite skills and values for becoming productive members of society. These skills and values are continually reinforced in the second phase; a 12-month Post-Residential Phase involving screened and trained Mentors who provide guidance and support to Cadets. The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe programs throughout the country target a specific subset of at-risk youth, thereby securing a niche among youth intervention and development programs. The minimum eligibility criteria for acceptance into ChalleNGe are defined at the national level and individual programs have the option to add to these criteria. The target population for participants in our program is 16-18 year olds who have dropped out of high school, and therefore the probability for them to drop out of ChalleNGe is considered high. We screen applicants to identify those that are motivated and capable of succeeding in ChalleNGe. This screening process helps to ensure that the maximum number of students will successfully complete the program. The National Guard Bureau has directed us to monitor our attrition/retention rates and to recruit and accept Applicants into the program, equal to our target number of graduates plus our class attrition rate. Based on program historical retention rates, Sunburst has the highest retention in the Nation at 92% for the last two graduating classes. Furthermore, SYA has exceeded our target graduation by an average of over 20 cadets per class for the last 4 cycles. Using our average cost of $19,000 per cadet, the additional 86 cadets that graduated from SYA, provided a savings to the federal and state government (tax payers) of slightly more than $1,634,000.00.
Tax ID 27-3622326