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U.S. National Debt:

Youth Challenge Program

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Organization-Maturity-Discipline-Motivation-These are qualities a graduate of the National Guard Youth Challenge Program credited the program with instilling in him. 

The National Guard Youth Challenge Program provides training and mentorship for struggling youth to help set them on a productive course.  The program's mission is to "intervene in and reclaim the lives of 16-18 year old high school dropouts, producing program graduates with the values, life skills, education, and self-discipline necessary to succeed as productive citizens."  Through the program, Idaho youth participate in a 22-week residential training course followed by a year of mentoring at the Idaho Youth Challenge Academy.  Two residential class cycles are provided for Idaho youth per year.

Since the program was started by the Idaho National Guard in January 2014, two classes, or 151 cadets have graduated from the program.  Eighty-one percent of Youth Challenge graduates return to school or are working.  Additionally, program participants provided 5,800 hours of service to Idaho communities.  Idahoans may have noticed their impact at the Dworshak Fish Hatchery, Hells Gate State Park, the Renaissance Fair setup in Moscow, Christmas light setup in Lewiston, highway cleanup and food drives. 

At the national level, the Youth Challenge program has graduated more than 130,000 teens.  Together, they have contributed 8 million hours of service to communities throughout the program's 22 years of operation. 

We should be proud of the graduates of the Idaho Youth Challenge Academy.  One young man participated in the program when he was 16, and the program helped him set the course for a better life.  He improved his academics, returned to school and began working.  On top of this, he lost 60 pounds and developed an appreciation for reading.  These accomplishments will help him in his future professional and personal endeavors.  Another graduate returned to school and went on to volunteer with her mother working with Hospice patients.  Many graduates say they leave the program feeling better able to interact with others and handle the situations that life sends their way.

Additional information about the Idaho Youth Challenge Academy, including how to apply, can be accessed through the program's website at,, and  Academy participants must be 16-18 years old; at risk of not completing high school; unemployed or underemployed; drug free; and may be required to meet other requirements in order to be accepted into the program.

If the true measure of a person is how they confront setbacks, then these young Idahoans have proven they have the strength of character to overcome significant challenges.  I commend them for their commitment to setting a course for a bright future.  Their strength and determination provide valuable examples to other Idahoans facing similar challenges.

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