Program: ChalleNGe program

Appropriation:

Interdepartmental Grant:

$200,000

Federal Funds:

$1,651,200

Special Revenue Funds:

$105,000

GF/GP:

$1,340,700

Total:

$3,296,900[5]

Program Description:

In operation since 1999, Michigan Youth ChalleNGe Academy, located in Battle Creek, is a tax-exempt, nonprofit corporation that runs two 22-week military-style residential programs each year for “at-risk” youth and high school dropouts between the ages of 16 and 18.  For completing the program, each participant earns a high school General Equivalency Diploma (GED).  Student participation in the program is voluntary.  Following successful completion of the residential phase, volunteers work with graduates in their respective communities for 12 months.

Approximately a third of the academy’s graduates enter military service, a third go on to college or vocational studies, and a third enter the workforce.  Additionally, the program reports that follow-up tracking of ChalleNGe program graduates indicates very low incidences of contact with the criminal justice system — a possible savings for taxpayers who might otherwise have to pay for incarceration and/or other correctional costs.

This program receives about 320 applicants per year.  From this number, some are not accepted and some drop out of the program during the first two weeks.  Of those who remain, anywhere from 120 to 160 actually earn their GED and 15 college credits.[6] With a total annual budget of $3,296,900 in 2002[7], that represents a cost of $20,605 per graduate (based on 160 graduates).

Recommended Action:

There is no compelling reason for the DMVA to fund such a program.  Preparing students for a General Equivalency Diploma is the responsibility of schools, parents, and students themselves.  The intentions of this program — and the program itself — are laudable, but it is an initiative that can and should be organized and funded through the voluntary efforts of individuals and existing institutions. Savings: $3,170,700.