Families get to see their loved ones, after sending them off to the Louisiana National Guard's Youth Challenge Program. Camp Minden is one of three sites where the program is held.
It’s a five month residential program for at risk teens. They learn discipline, leadership and work toward obtaining their high school general equivalency diploma. (GED).
After completing the first phase, students return home and are assisted by case managers and mentors who help them through college or enter the workforce.
Camp Minden’s current class includes 220 cadets. Saturday was the second family day.
“I learned coping skills and how to control my anger,” said Brittany Hudson. “If you have anger or depression problems, they’ll help you get through that.”
“The path I was going down, I could’ve ended up in jail or something but they gave me a better look on life,” said Devon Millender, of Laplace, LA.
“We provide their educational needs here, there medical needs here, we have licensed counselors that are here, state board certified teachers that instruct the kids and provide education for them,” said Capt. Jason Montgomery, the Director of the Youth Challenge Program at Camp Minden.
It's free to participate. The program is funded by federal and state funds. According to Capt. Montgomery, it costs $15,000 to put each student through the program.
Parents said the program transforms their children.
“She is just doing wonderful. Her grades have flourished from a ninth grade level to a college level. She’s just looking forward to the future whereas before there was no future,” said Kathy Bucklew, Brittany Hudson’s mother.
But cadets said surviving the two week acclamation period isn’t a walk in the park. Each day, the cadets wake up at 5:30 a.m. for physical training.
“The first two weeks are hardcore,” said Hudson.
The cadets get to see their families every four to six weeks. They’re allowed ten minutes on the phone once a week.
“They don’t have TV, they don’t have computers, they don’t have cell phones so they have more time to study,” said Bucklew.
This class of cadets graduates Jul. 19. Since 1994, more than 20,000 Louisiana teens have graduated from the program.
The next session will begin at Camp Minden on Aug. 17. Entrance interviews will be on Jun. 17 at the National Guard Armory, located at 400 East Stoner, in Shreveport.
Here's a link to more information: http://geauxguard.com/louisiana-youth-challenge/