A Bastrop teenager credits the Youth Challenge Program for helping him get his life back on track.
Shane Griffin, 16, chose to go to the Louisiana National Guard Youth Program after hearing about it from a teacher at his school.

His mother, Angela Daniel said that ever since Griffin turned 15 he had been getting more and more angry and that peer pressure had started to get to him.

“He had a hard time saying no,” Daniel said.

The Louisiana National Guard Youth Challenge Program is a 17-month program, which offers at-risk adolescents an opportunity to change their future. The program helps the students get their high school general equivalency diploma while living and working in a structured and disciplined military environment, which encourages teamwork and personal growth. After five months, the students are assisted by mentors from their home communities and Youth Challenge Program case managers as they return home and continue their education or enter the work force.

The program is voluntary for students 16 to 18 years old. Applicants must be a U.S. citizen or legal resident, reside in Louisiana, free from drugs, have no felony convictions and have a desire to complete the program.

“When I first heard about it, I didn't want him to go,” Daniels said. “I just couldn't imagine sending my kid away, but he wanted to do this. It's not a punishment. It's just something to get him back on track.”

When asked about the program, Griffin stated, “All I can say is, I understand more. Youth Challenge Program is just trying to teach me discipline and responsibility for my actions. I feel better about myself, because I've messed up my life with school, missing a lot of days and now I'm more focused, trying my hardest in school to complete my goal and do right.”

The program is administered through the National Guard. Individuals with military experience work as the direct care staff. All academic teacher are certified. Additional staff includes guidance counselors, medical staff, post-residential case managers and administrative staff.

“Once you have certain people helping you out, other cadets, counselors and teachers, you realize that you really need this program and you give 110 percent to complete it without being disrespectful when you don't like what you are told,” Griffin said.

Participants live in military barracks and have access to a variety of classrooms, training resources and athletic fields. Corps members are supervised at all times and must remain on post unless participating in an authorized off-post activity. All personal needs such as meals, bedding and uniforms are provided at no cost to the participants.

“The first two weeks were really rough, but after you get used to the routine, it gets easier,” Griffin said. “The hardest part about the program is learning to get along with the other cadets.”

Griffin has been in the program for seven weeks so far. Daniels said she would recommend it to any struggling parent.

“In the short time he's been there, I got my son back,” Daniel said.

For more information and applications, call 1.800.226.7543, see the Louisiana Youth Challenge website www.ngycp.org or find them on Facebook.com/LouisianaYouthChallenge.