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Congressman Jerry McNerney

Representing the 9th District of California

Rep. McNerney Celebrates Groundbreaking for Discovery Challenge Youth Academy

Mar 11, 2016
Press Release

Stockton, CA – Today, Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-09) celebrated the groundbreaking of the Discovery Challenge Academy, a California National Guard program for at-risk youth to help them turn their lives around through skills training and education. The Congressman attended the ceremony along with members of the California National Guard, San Joaquin County Office of Education, state and local elected officials, to applaud the new academy and the renovation of the Sharpe Army Depot that will house the program.

“The National Guard's Challenge programs have a real record of success when it comes to helping at-risk youth turn their lives around, and I'm proud that our San Joaquin community will serve as the home for the Discovery Challenge Academy,” said Rep. McNerney. “I was glad to help secure federal funding for the program. It took tireless advocacy and teamwork to deliver this Challenge site for the young people in our region looking to earn a second chance through the hard work and educational opportunities that the program provides.”

Congressman McNerney worked tirelessly to bring the Discovery Challenge Youth Academy to San Joaquin County, advocating for the program in numerous meetings and communications with Army and National Guard Bureau leaders.

Rep. McNerney successfully advocated for an additional $10 million in funding for the program in Congress in 2014. He also wrote California legislators asking them to approve state matching funds, helping secure an additional $1.5 million for the program. Additionally, Congressman McNerney sent a letter to the Pentagon asking for the Challenge program in San Joaquin County to commence.

The Congressman’s efforts also helped the Army and the California National Guard establish a lease agreement for the Challenge program at the Sharpe Army Depot. Before securing this agreement, the Army National Guard had held up the lease contract at Sharpe because of its interpretation of the rules surrounding such acquisitions.

“Many Challenge program participants go on to attend college, get a good-paying job, and make valuable contributions to society. Programs like the Challenge, that help deter youth from dropping of out of school, delinquency, and criminal activity, are critical investments that will improve our community for many years to come,” added Rep. McNerney.

The Discovery Challenge Academy will welcome its inaugural class in January 2017 with 150 cadets. California’s Challenge academies have served more than 6,000 cadets since their establishment.

“What the Cal Guard accomplishes with its Challenge academies is as important as anything we do during wildfire season or on the battlefield overseas,” said Maj. Gen. David S. Baldwin, Adjutant General for the California National Guard. “We are a community-based force, and offering these youth a chance to redirect their lives is critical not only to their futures, but to the future of California’s communities.”

Discovery Challenge Academy is California’s third National Guard Challenge program, joining the Grizzly Youth Academy in San Luis Obispo and Sunburst Youth Academy in Los Alamitos.  California’s programs are consistently among the academies with the highest retention rates out of all 38 Challenge programs nationwide.

The Challenge program targets teenagers who have dropped out of high school and provides them with the life skills, job training and education needed to help get back on track. Participants in the program take part in a half-year residential program on active or closed National Guard bases, a National Guard training center, or a school campus. Following this residential phase the participants return to their communities and take part in a 12-month mentoring program. Each class averages 100 participants and the program has produced over 121,000 graduates since its inception in 1993.

The Challenge program has been statistically proven to be one of the nation’s most effective means for prevention of delinquency and involvement in criminal activities. A cost-benefit analysis conducted by RAND Corporation determined that it is cost-effective, with a return on investment of $2.66 for every dollar spent. The program currently operates in 27 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. It is funded through a federal/state partnership, with the federal government contributing 75 percent.

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Rep. Jerry McNerney proudly serves the constituents of California’s 9th Congressional District that includes portions of San Joaquin, Contra Costa, and Sacramento Counties. For more information on Rep. McNerney’s work, follow him on Facebook and on Twitter @RepMcNerney.