The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program (NGYCP) will likely open an academy at Central State Hospital's Boland building.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal made the official announcement on the campus Friday.
“We've applied to the United States Department of Defense for a third Georgia National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Academy (YCA) right here in Milledgeville,” Deal said.
Fort Stewart near Savannah and Fort Gordon in Augusta house the other YCAs.
The old hospital campus beat out several other possible state sites for the newest academy.
Deal said Milledgeville's assets, such as Georgia Military College, made it a prime location.
“If we are granted approval, we think it will make this the most unique Youth ChalleNGe Academy in the entire nation,” the governor said. “We believe it will be a great success.”
The NGYCP is an evidence-based program designed to provide opportunities to adolescents who have dropped out of school but demonstrate a desire to improve their potential for successful and productive lives, according to the foundation's website.
In 1993, the National Guard founded the Youth ChalleNGe Program to give troubled youth the opportunity to turn their lives around.
The U.S. Department of Defense provides 75 percent of the cost after startup with the state kicking in the remainder.
“We believe it's a wise investment for the state in terms of helping these young people, and also a wise investment in utilizing facilities right here on this campus,” Deal said.
The voluntary, preventive program helps young people improve their life skills, education levels and employment potential.
“This academy will give those, who have given up on themselves in many cases, an opportunity for a second chance,” Deal said.
Sixteen-to-18-year-old male and female high school dropouts are eligible to apply for the 17-month program, which includes a five-month residential phase followed by a 12-month mentoring phase.
The rigorous 22-week, in-residence program builds self-esteem, teaches kids leadership, teamwork and how to be self-reliant.
Adjutant General for the Georgia Department of Defense Maj. Gen. Jim Butterworth said the existing Georgia YCA campuses succeed because they are isolated. The CSH campus is a perfect fit.
“The kids feel like all of the distractions that have gotten them to the point of being high school dropouts are gone,” Butterworth said. “The one thing they can focus on without family, gang violence or other distractions is educating themselves and preparing for their future. That's what this location brings.”
Georgia YCA graduates now earn a high school diploma.
To date, 35 YCA's have graduated more than 120,000 participants. Georgia boasts 13,000 cadet grads in the last 20 years.
“As a general rule, that's 13,000 people who might have headed to our state prison system. Now, they are headed to get a job,” Deal said.
Director of the Fort Stewart YCA Dr. Roger Lotson has 21 years experience supervising the successful youth program.
“One year after graduation, 80 percent are doing something productive either in school, the military or working productively,” Lotson said.
Lotson is optimistic about the growing YCA footprint.
“It gives us greater capacity because the high school drop out rate in Georgia is so high,” he said. “This will give us another 400 or 500 more we can help per year.”
The GMC connection offers opportunity for ChalleNGe graduates.
“Having a potential option to go across the street to Georgia Military College is a great partnership,” Butterworth said.