January 15, 2009

Commonwealth ChalleNGe recognized for excellence at 2008 conference

By Sgt. 1st Class A.J. Coyne
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Program received the “Excellence in Responsible Citizenship Award” Jan. 9 at the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program Conference in Dallas.

“This is a combination of teamwork between teachers, field trip coordinators and counselors,” said Thomas Early, director of the Virginia Commonwealth ChalleNGe Program. “This is a result of everyone pitching in together.”

According to the award citation, the winner in this category facilitated an active student government model and used actual voting machines for elections and citizenship classes.

The program also provided insightful opportunities for its cadets to gain knowledge and experience regarding U.S. Government structure and processes, along with individual rights and responsibilities at the local, state and national levels.

The winning program provides exposure to the U.S., state and local government structure. It exercises a viable student government model and provides field trips to the state and our national capitol. Cadets from the local area who are eligible to vote are transported to local polling locations to cast their official ballots during local elections after discussion of local issues. 

The Commonwealth ChalleNGe Program works with 16-19 year old “at-risk” youth to develop values, skills, education and self-discipline in their lives. The program is located at the State Military Reservation in Virginia Beach and serves youth from the entire state of Virginia.  The program is based on eight core components that enable youth to focus and make positive improvements during their five and half month residential journey toward graduation. This program also gives cadets the opportunity to attain the GED.

The mission of Commonwealth ChalleNGe is to intervene in the life of at-risk youth by providing the values, skills, education and self-discipline needed to produce responsible, productive citizens, and to do so in a highly disciplined atmosphere.

More than 3,000 students have graduated from the Commonwealth ChalleNGe since 1994, according to Early. After graduation, cadets enter a 12 month post-residential phase. During this time graduates meet regularly with a mentor from their community and strive toward goals they developed while in residence. Successful graduates of Commonwealth ChalleNGe are expected to enter employment, continue their education, or enter the military. 

The cadets perform service to the community in many organizations, for example: Virginia Beach Convention Center, SPCA, NAS Oceana Commissary and the Virginia Aquarium. They are also called upon to assist with local events such as Marathons, Adopt a Highway, and parades.

Commonwealth ChalleNGe has two classes a year, one in January and one in June. If you would like to learn more information about the program or would like to visit please contact the admission counselors at 757-491-5932-ext. 231/235 or visit their website at www.ngycp.org/state/va.

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