School for at-risk youth to open as planned
LATHROP — It's official.
A long-sought National Guard Youth ChalleNGe program will begin at Sharpe Army Depot in January.
Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, toured the compound Friday and made the announcement of a lease agreement that will ensure the school for at-risk youth will open as planned.
"This program has a proven track record for turning participants into productive members of their communities by giving them the tools and skills they need to go on to college, find meaningful employment and achieve success," McNerney said in a statement.
The National Guard seeks to acquire vacant federal buildings at the Sharpe Army Depot to house the program's participants and equipment.
Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, has been working for years to get the program running and was on hand Friday for the announcement.
"After years of work to bring this program to Stockton — from an idea when I was on the (Stockton City Council) to introducing the bill and securing funds in the Assembly — it was frustrating to see things begin to grind down," she said in a statement. "I'm really grateful to Congressman McNerney for getting us over this obstacle. Now, I can start looking forward to graduating our first class – still a ways off."
Among the challenges in getting the program started was the Army National Guard's interpretation of the rules surrounding acquisitions of federal buildings. McNerney advocated for the program in several meetings with Army and National Guard leaders. He also procured $10 million in funding for the program from Congress and sought an additional $1.5 million from state legislators and sought Pentagon approval of the program.
ChalleNGe targets teenagers who have dropped out of high school and provides life skills and education required for them to turn their lives around. Participants take part in a half-year residential program that provides structure as well as education and mentoring. After the half-year residential program, participants return to their communities for a yearlong mentoring program. Since its inception in 1993, the program has had 121,000 graduates. It is considered an effective means to prevent delinquency and involvement in criminal activities.