CLAY NATIONAL GUARD CENTER — Seven Liberty County youths graduated from the Fort Gordon Youth Challenge Academy on Saturday, March 5, during a ceremony at the Bell Auditorium in Augusta. Since the first Youth Challenge Academy class graduated in 1993, more than 10,000 once “at-risk” Georgia teens have completed the National Guard-sponsored youth development program.
The Liberty County graduates are: Jasmine Patterson of Fort Stewart; Joshua Henry-Williams, Marcus Ross, John Taylor and Romane Brown, all of Hinesville; and Christon Scriven and Joshua Stringfield, both of Midway. Corey Stanley of Richmond Hill also was among more than 250 students who earned their GEDs. This class represented the largest class to graduate from Georgia’s YCA since it began 13 years ago.
Georgia’s Youth Challenge Academy is a voluntary 22-week, in-residence, military-styled program that emphasizes academic completion, life-skills development and physical fitness. High-school dropouts between the ages of 16-18 are eligible to apply for YCA admission. Only 40 percent of applicants are accepted each year. Teens that complete the 22-week program graduate and receive their GED or diploma.
Many YCA graduates go onto four-year or community colleges. Others return to their hometowns with their GEDs and marketable skill sets. Some graduates enlist in the military.
Georgia was among the first states to operate the pilot YCA program in 1993. Today, the Georgia National Guard operates two YCA campuses, the original campus at Fort Stewart and a second campus that opened at Fort Gordon near Augusta in 2000. Each year, more than 1,000 students complete the program and receive their GEDs.
Maj. Gen. William T. Nesbitt, Georgia’s adjutant general, delivered the commencement address and applauded the students and their parents for the decision to complete the program. Nesbitt recently was awarded the Challenge Champions Award from the National Guard Youth Foundation for his outstanding support of YCA.