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Rep. McNerney Fights for National Guard Youth Program at Sharpe Army Depot

Mar 23, 2015
Press Release

Washington, DC – Congressman Jerry McNerney (CA-09) has sent a letter to the Pentagon to ensure the California National Guard’s Youth ChalleNGe program (NGYGP) in San Joaquin County can begin as scheduled in January, 2016.

The bipartisan letter was also signed by eleven other California members of congress.  The letter urges the National Guard Bureau to allow the California National Guard to proceed with its plans to acquire vacant federal buildings at the Sharpe Army Depot in Lathrop to house program participants and activities. As the letter explains, the California Guard believes Sharpe is a “prime location due to the availability of excess property as well as being located in an economically disadvantaged region” of the state.

Rep. McNerney and the other members wrote the letter because the Army National Guard has to-date held up the purchase of the buildings at Sharpe because of their interpretation of the rules surrounding such acquisitions.

"Representative McNerney is a leader in the development and expansion of the Youth ChalleNGe program in the San Joaquin Valley, said Major General David Baldwin, Adjutant General of the California National Guard.

“Dropouts in California make up nearly half of the heads of households on welfare, and nearly 75 percent of the current prison population.  Our National Guard ChalleNGe academies are the best solution to mitigate these outcomes.  California has two of the nation's top ChalleNGe programs.  Representative McNerney and I believe the central valley will be well served by a third ChalleNGe academy at the Sharpe Army Depot."

Participants in the NGYGP 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.

If the California Guard is unable to acquire thee necessary buildings, it may have to delay the opening of the Youth ChalleNGe program, leaving thousands of at-risk youth in San Joaquin County without access to this essential program.

Congressman McNerney successfully advocated for additional funding for the program in Congress last year, resulting in a $10 million increase. He also wrote California legislators asking them to approve state matching funds, helping win an additional $1.5 million for the program.

The letter to the National Guard Bureau in Washington was also signed by Reps. Grace Napolitano, David McKinley, Ted Lieu, Tom McClintock, Lois Capps, Norma Torres, Juan Vargas, Jackie Speier, Tony Cardeñas, Mike Honda, and Alan Lowenthal.

The Youth ChalleNGe 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 of the operating costs.