School for at-risk youth will leave Aiken

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COLUMBIA --- When South Carolina Youth Challenge Academy Director Jackie Fogle approaches state legislators for funding, most are surprised to know the Aiken facility for at-risk teens serves the entire state -- if they are aware of it at all.

"It rings a bell, but I don't know anything about the details," said Sen. Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, whose district includes part of Aiken County.

Mr. Fogle said he's not sure why the program, which falls under the office of the state adjutant general, has such a low profile among so many state officials.

Since 2005, the state's National Guard Youth Challenge Academy has been forced to return $484,000 in federal funding because the state could not provide matching funds, according to records from the adjutant general.

Though Challenge accepts teens from every county, Aiken County has disproportionately relied on it to turn adolescents around. Aiken, Beaufort and Charleston counties supply about 20 percent of the quasi-military school's enrollment.

To save money, Challenge in South Carolina has combined its Columbia and Aiken programs, and this week it plans to close the Camp Long Road portion in Aiken and move it to the McCrady Training Center at Fort Jackson.

"Any time we can save money, that means the possibility of keeping the doors open a little longer," Mr. Fogle said.

He said he hopes officials see the academy as a way to pre-empt higher unemployment figures and has even asked graduates to call state lawmakers to tell of their successes.

"It's unfortunate that when times get hard, programs like mine fall to the bottom," said Mr. Fogle, a retired colonel. "The kids we're dealing with are the ones that really need the help to stay a part of the economy. ... If you leave them on the wayside, it will cost a lot more money than what we're spending to help them."

Unlike other Challenge programs, South Carolina's receives no state appropriation, according to the adjutant general's office.

"Staff members are out organizing golf tournaments, selling raffle tickets, talking to church groups, applying for grants ... when their time should be devoted to working with the kids," said Ginny Morgan, the grants accountant for the adjutant general.

Challenge has received about $6 million a year, 60 percent from the federal government and the rest from private donations and in-kind gifts, such as facility space and teachers from local school districts.

In fiscal year 2008, the program funds dropped by half.

"We've been struggling trying to gain visibility, and I guess because it has the military portion tied to it, a lot of folks don't understand how the system works," said state Sen. John Scott, a Columbia Democrat and a leading advocate for the academy.

Like Mr. Fogle, the lawmaker pointed to the savings involved when a troubled young person is turned into a contributing member of society.

"I've seen parents cry at graduation," Mr. Scott said. "It's the first time their kid did anything right."

Reach Sarita Chourey (803) 727-4257 or sarita.chourey@morris.com.

NATIONAL GUARD YOUTH CHALLENGE ACADEMY

In the past five years, the 11-year-old school has graduated 72 percent of its 1,762 teens. Cadets, who are typically high school dropouts, complete a 22-week residential phase followed by 12 months at home, where they stay in touch with a mentor. The teens work toward a GED or high school diploma and focus on academics, life-coping strategies, job skills, health, hygiene and community service.

There are 34 Challenge programs in 29 states, according to the national organization.

Congress created the program for a few states in 1993. It expanded to South Carolina five years later. Youths don't pay to participate, but it costs about $14,000 for each one, funded by state and federal dollars.

-- Morris News Service

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JAndy
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JAndy 10/05/09 - 08:08 am
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Let me give you a Mentor's

Let me give you a Mentor's perspective of the Youth Challenge Program. The program is only as good as the people involved. I attended my cadets graduation this year. This was one of the biggest graduating classes. As anything in society today, there are like and dislikes. Yes there is structure within itself. Good for the Cadet. There are opportunities for the Cadet after graduation. They learn skills not just education. They provide services for the community and they learn responsibility. Some of the things that bother me are: They are only funded for so many cadets. They are expected to graduate only a percentage of the cadets. The program tears down the Cadet only to rebuild them. There is racism amongst the Cadres. I have witnessed the black Cadets return to the campus and receive the warm welcome. Such as "How was your weekend?" Where the white cadets were greeted with "Get your A.. in there and get your gear straightened out." The other issues surround the treatment of the cadets.

JAndy
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JAndy 10/05/09 - 08:19 am
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I have been on the phone with

I have been on the phone with a cadet and heard. SO-n-so get your F**** a** off of the phone and on the line. Sure all of these cadets were mis guided. But, they are not adults and they are not soldiers. They break the rules themselves. No fighting, smoking, drinking, etc... I know of cadets that fought and were dismissed. I know of cadets that were arguing only to have cadres say lets take it to the wood line and settle it there. They fought and were not dismissed. Was this for their own amusement? If it happened with the Cadres permission, it was okay? Now the cadets are back in the real world and they have no sense on how to function in everyday life. If you want your Cadets life miserable in YCA. Challenge the Cadre and the cadets time there will be challenged and closely guarded the rest of his time there. I now everything has its flaws. But is it good for the Cadet?

check
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check 10/05/09 - 10:45 pm
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"J"Andy... it is obvious you

"J"Andy... it is obvious you care about those youth. God bless you.

check
82
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check 10/05/09 - 10:50 pm
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RE: "Mr. Fogle said he's not

RE: "Mr. Fogle said he's not sure why the program, which falls under the office of the state adjutant general, has such a low profile among so many state officials." The answer is in the first sentence -- whose office this program fall under and how much that leadership cares (NOT at all).

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