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National Guard Youth Challenge Program

Benefit overview

Since 1993, the National Guard Youth Challenge Program has given teenagers a second chance by teaching them self-discipline, leadership and responsibility as they work toward a high school diploma or equivalency.

To date, more than 200,000 young men and women have graduated from the program. The program is offered free of charge to eligible candidates ages 16-18 in 39 programs operating in 30 states, districts and territories.

How this benefit helps

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Get education back on track.

The NGYCP is a Defense Department program administered by the National Guard Bureau. Its goal is to get teenagers on track toward graduating from high school and on to a promising future.

About the NGYCP

The NGYCP is a voluntary 5 ½-month residential program followed by a year-long mentorship. During the residential phase of the program, cadets are immersed in a military training environment, which emphasizes discipline, consistency and structure. Cadets attend classes daily to prepare them to return to high school or complete GED testing. The program focuses on the social, emotional and academic development of cadets by teaching them:

  • Academic excellence
  • Life-coping skills
  • Service to the community
  • Health and hygiene
  • Job skills
  • Leadership/followership
  • Physical fitness
  • Responsible citizenship

Cadets choose a mentor from their community who is specially trained to work with them for the 12 months following the residential portion of the NGYCP. Mentors help the youth apply their new skills to real-life situations and continue progressing toward their goals.

Who is eligible for the NGYCP

The NGYCP is open to young men and women who will be 16-18 years old when they enter the program. Additionally, applicants must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen or legal resident of the United States
  • Be significantly behind or no longer working toward a high school diploma or the equivalent
  • Be unemployed or underemployed
  • Be willing to be free from illegal drug and substance use, alcohol and tobacco
  • Not have a felony charge or conviction
  • Be physically and mentally capable of fully participating in the program (Reasonable accommodations will be made for physical or other disabilities.)

How the NGYCP can help eligible teens

Since 2016, more than 80% of program graduates have earned high school diplomas or earned enough credits in the program in order to return to high school in good standing. In addition, more than 80% of graduates are placed in school, jobs or the military within one year of graduation. With these successes, the program is a great opportunity for teens who are looking for opportunities to succeed outside of a traditional education setting.

How to access the NGCYP

Learn more about the National Guard Youth Challenge program.


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