Jun 16, 2017

National Guard offers "ChallenGE" to at-risk youth

The New Mexico Army National Guard is looking for Sandoval County youth between the ages of 16 and 18 who would like a chance to turn their lives around after dropping out of school.

Such youngstears could be eligible for the guard’s Youth ChalleNGe Academy, a 22-week program in which enrollees undergo quasi-military training while also taking classes to earn a GED and possibly college credits. At the end of the 22 weeks, academy graduates are then paired with a mentor who works them for an additional year in formulating out a successful life plan.

“This is an incredible program,” says Brigadier General Kenneth A. Nava of the New Mexico National Guard. “The kids in the program learn self-discipline. They learn how to take care of themselves and how to interact with other people. We take before and after pictures (of each enrollee), and at the end of the program, they don’t look like the same person. There is a mental and physical transformation.”

General Nava explained the program as part of an overall presentation on the New Mexico National Guard at the June 15, 2017 meeting of the Sandoval County Commission.

He explained the guard’s dual mission of being a reserve force to aid in fighting wars for the entire country, while also providing civil defense for local communities. He also gave the history of the guard’s Battalion headquarters in Sandoval County, at 4001 Northwest Loop in Rio Rancho. This facility is commonly referred to as the HAWK site because it originally housed the medium-range surface-to-air missiles known by that name.

A broader mission

Today, the facility has a much broader mission. It's home to multiple units, including a logistics brigade, a medical support company and a training institute for military truck drivers.

Following his briefing on the Battalion headquarters, General Nava asked the commission for its support in two actives:  

  • A July 14, 2017 event called the “Boss Lift”
  • Recruitment of students for the Youth ChalleNGe Academy.

The Boss Lift is hosted by a group known as ESGR, which stands for Employer Support for the Guard and Reserve. This group of volunteers spreads the message about the importance of employers allowing their employees to fulfill their obligations to the guard and reserves without fear of losing their jobs. They hope to see representatives from companies throughout the county on June 14. The event, which begins at 8:00 AM, is called the Boss Lift because employers will be given a tour of the facility and surrounding areas via helicopter.

The call for help in recruiting for the Youth ChalleNGe Academy is in hopes of getting more Sandoval County residents into that program. Seventy three Sandoval County residents have graduated from the academy since its 2011 inception. That’s a much smaller number, however, than the 186 from San Juan County, the 221 from Bernalillo County and the 311 from Dona Ana County.  

 “We want more young people from Sandoval County in the program,” General Nava said.

There are eligibility criteria. Program applicants cannot have felony convictions; they must be drug free, and they have to want to be in the program.

There are no financial barriers, however. Room and board for the 22 weeks at the academy's Roswell campus are free. The program is funded 75% with federal dollars and 25% by the state.

More information on the Youth ChalleNGe Academy is available here.