Kentucky National Guard youth program aims to help stop growing trend of violence among young people

Published: May. 3, 2021 at 11:53 AM EDT
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KENTUCKY (WKYT) - Kentucky continues to see a growing trend of violence among young people.

Officials with the National Guard say their Youth ChalleNGe program for at-risk youths could be the answer some families are looking for.

We’re told the whole point of the program is to take at-risk children and bring them into an environment where they can give them the skills necessary to move forward into adulthood.

“So, they don’t have their cellphones and their Nintendo’s and their PlayStations and TV and TikTok and Instagram and all that stuff. So, they have to focus on themselves and making a positive change in themselves,” said Troy Hampton, Bluegrass ChalleNGe Academy director.

“They come to us and we provide an educational service that tries to get them back on track in their school or they can graduate with our programs,” said General Charles Jones, KY Youth ChalleNGe director

The program has been around since 1999 in Kentucky, centered at Ft. Knox, with a new program opening up in Appalachia in 2012. In that time, nearly 85% of the teenagers who complete go on to have successful careers.

General Jones says they try to instill values and lessons that can help students for the rest of their lives during the 22-week onsite session and then continue to enforce those through mentorship in the year after that.

“Some of them go into the service, some of them go into all walks of life. We’ve got lawyers and doctors and such and educators,” General Jones said. “It made a difference for a lot of kids that didn’t have the opportunity or made bad decisions and got themselves into a position where they would continue to struggle as they made the transition into an adult.”

The program operates twice a year at both locations. Officials tell us the next semester is slated to start in July.

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