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Program gives teens second chance

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Rahkeam Jacobs knows where he wants to go; he now has a way to get there.

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The newest candidates say goodbye to their loved ones before boarding a bus. The Youth Challenge Academy is a quasi-military program of the National Guard that houses teens from across the state at Fort Gordon. The 22-week program will end in August  Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
The newest candidates say goodbye to their loved ones before boarding a bus. The Youth Challenge Academy is a quasi-military program of the National Guard that houses teens from across the state at Fort Gordon. The 22-week program will end in August

The 17-year-old was doing well until his freshman year in high school, when a fire destroyed his family's home, forcing him to live a short time in Atlanta and fall behind in school. As a result, he had to repeat ninth grade, delaying the dreams he and his mother had.

Ever since he was young, Rahkeam wanted to see the world, and his mother wanted to see him walk across the stage at graduation.

A first of its kind partnership between the Richmond County school board and the Youth Challenge Academy at Fort Gordon will enable both to happen.

"Sometimes life brings you obstacles so you can succeed," said Rahkeam, a Josey High School junior.

The Youth Challenge Academy is a quasi-military program of the National Guard that houses teens from across the state at Fort Gordon and helps them obtain their general equivalency diploma.

The new partnership will run parallel to this program, but students involved in it will obtain a high school diploma. Twelve Richmond County students have been selected for the program. They are juniors who fell behind but will be able to graduate on time in August if they complete the 22-week program.

"We were very, very surprised at the number of students who wanted to be in," Executive Director for High Schools Lynn Warr said.

About 40 students attended a meeting hoping to fill the 12 slots, she said.

"We're absolutely looking forward to offering a different path of opportunities for success to our students who in many other cases may possibly be dropouts or students who have given up on their education," Richmond County Superintendent Dana Bedden said.

It says quite a bit that students are volunteering for a program that requires them to wake up at 4:30 a.m. for physical training, Dr. Bedden added.

Youth Challenge Academy provides an opportunity for students to refocus, said retired Army Lt. Col. Janet Zimmerman, the director of the program.

"Oftentimes some of the things that get in the way of young people being successful are the friends they hang around with, the things going on in their neighborhood; sometimes it's the turmoil in the family," Lt. Col. Zimmerman said. "If you can give a young man a room -- 16 to 19 years old -- 22 weeks of protected time where all they have to focus on is getting their act together and there's no distractions ... it gives them an opportunity to focus only on what they need to do, and it works."

Rahkeem said he understands it will be tough, but he knows he will make something of himself.

After earning his diploma, he plans to enlist in the Navy and become a navigator. The teenager has never been out of the state.

"I want to be shipped off overseas and see the world," said Rahkeem, whose friends call him "Rocky" for his tenacious attitude. "I just have a love of life. My eyes are just soaking up the world. I want to take it all in."

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.

Comments (8) Add comment
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patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 03/30/09 - 12:35 am
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Most children that find

Most children that find today's government schools difficult are the product of poor parenting. No structure in their life. They've never been taught to focus. This youth education boot camp will give them a taste of what can be accomplished with focused effort and what accomplishment feels like. This method of straightening out wayward kids has been used successfully for a very long time. I wish Rahkeam success.

Craig Spinks
817
Points
Craig Spinks 03/30/09 - 01:50 am
0
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KUDOS to Dr. Bedden for

KUDOS to Dr. Bedden for throwing out Charles Larke's broom and rug! The current, and hopefully long-into-the-future RCSS SOS, has identified another serious, yet deliberately neglected, problem in RCBOE schools and has developed a solution for it.

HYPOCRITES 08
7
Points
HYPOCRITES 08 03/30/09 - 07:14 am
0
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You need to get over your "

You need to get over your " Government Schools " B.S. Plenty of products of " Government Schools" have gone on to be very successful in life.

patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 03/30/09 - 07:45 am
0
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Hypo, thinking isn't a bad

Hypo, thinking isn't a bad thing. Jewish schools teach Judaism, Catholic schools teach Catholicism, and government schools teach agenda oriented b.s. like man made global warming, restitution paid to indians and blacks, and only the government can solve your problems. Conservatives have a different point of view than that taught by government schools. If you can't get over it, at least try to understand it. (staying on subject isn't a bad thing)

curly123053
4654
Points
curly123053 03/30/09 - 08:51 am
0
0
Private schools whether they

Private schools whether they are faith based or not have an edge over Government schools. One example would be History : Private Schools teach History as it actually happened. Government Schools teach History in a "politically correct manner" so they won't offend somebody.
This is just one example of Private Schools vs. Government Schools.
Another example would be Discipline. Private Schools DO NOT put up with the crap Government Schools put up with in regards to discipline. While Private Schools do have their occasional troublemakers, they are quick to discipline regardless of whether they hurt someones feelings. The results is a lot less disruptions inside Private Schools and less discipline problems.
With Government Schools, well, no explanation needed.

DMac_357
1
Points
DMac_357 03/30/09 - 09:35 am
0
0
Patricia, your hate shows

Patricia, your hate shows through in your postings. Agenda oriented BS like restitution to blacks and indians. You are laughable. My kids go to what you call "government schools" and they aren't learning restitution and only the government can solve your problems. This article is about kids getting a 2d chance to get their lives turned around and you are injecting your right wing politics into it. There's no need for that!!

jack
10
Points
jack 03/30/09 - 11:48 am
0
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You need to get over your "

You need to get over your " Government Schools " B.S. Plenty of products of " Government Schools" have gone on to be very successful in life.
Posted by HYPOCRITES 08 on Mon Mar 30, 2009 7:14 AM....too many have not @ about 50% drop out rate.

teacher02
3
Points
teacher02 03/30/09 - 05:35 pm
0
0
P.T., just out of curiosity,

P.T., just out of curiosity, why are you so set on this idea that "government schools" are indoctrinating students? I've heard Neal Boortz spout off that similar idea a few times (among his many other wrong assumptions about public education and educators) and it is way off base. In my curriculum, we discuss sensitive topics ranging from stem cells to global warming and I can assure you it is done in an open-ended manner that invites critical thinking rather than blind acceptance. I have sat in on other classes and witnessed the same approach to other such issues. As far as the success of private schools over public schools it is pretty simple. When you have involved parents, motivated learners, small classes, and no restrictions on discipline (see NCLB) of course the results are better. Public schools do not have that luxury, because they must meet the needs of the entire public – a good portion of which does not fit the aforementioned characteristics.

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