NJ Youth ChalleNGe Graduation

War Memorial, Trenton, NJ

Cadets from the New Jersey Youth ChalleNGe program attend their graduation ceremony. The cadets graduated from the rigorous 22-week National Guard program at Fort Dix that uses discipline and community service to help at-risk youth turn their lives around and graduate from high school.

Youth ChalleNGe Program

"You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them." - Michael Jordan

Contact Information
For more information visit the NJ Youth ChalleNGe Program website at www.nj.gov/military/challenge.

Mission Statement
The mission of the New Jersey Youth ChalleNGe Academy is to provide a highly disciplined environment fostering academics, leadership development, physical training and personal growth to educate and train unemployed youth who have ceased to attend high school.

Youth ChalleNGe is now the second largest mentoring program in the nation. The National Mentoring Partnership has awarded the "The Excellence in Mentoring Award for Program Leadership" to Youth ChalleNGe for its mentoring accomplishments.

The New Jersey Youth ChalleNGe Academy offers a course of study to include Math, Science, Reading, English, History, Computer Applications, and Life-Coping Skills. After completing the courses, the cadets take the GED test. If they pass the exam they will receive a New Jersey State High School Diploma after completion of the five month residential phase. The average cadet achieves a 2.0 or higher grade level increase in reading and mathematics.

The New Jersey Youth ChalleNGe Academy is FREE! The Academy is funded by the Department of Defense and the State of New Jersey. Meals, housing, and uniforms are all provided to the cadet. The Academy is sponsored by the New Jersey National Guard and located at Fort Dix, NJ. Joining the military is not a requirement. However, attending the academy is an excellent way to access a career with the military.


Acclimation Phase
Included in the Residential Phase is a two-week acclimation period during which applicants are assessed to determine their potential for successfully completing the program. During this initial phase, applicants have an opportunity to adjust to the physical, mental, and social discipline of the program. The focus is on teamwork, close order drill, code of conduct, leadership and followership practicum, and physical fitness training. For those applicants who successfully complete this phase, they earn the distinction of becoming a full-fledged cadet. Over 90% of these cadets will successfully complete the program.

ChalleNGe Residential Phase
The Residential Phase focuses on basic life style changes approached through a rigorous program of education, training, and community service. During this phase, cadets focus on eight core components that develop the whole person in terms of mind, body and personal values. Emphasis is on self-discipline, self-esteem, education, and development of healthy life styles.

ChalleNGe Post-Residential Phase
Mentoring is a critical part of the NJ Youth ChalleNGe Academy. For many youth, having a relationship with a caring adult who is a constant and positive role model will make the difference between success and failure. The link between mentoring and the eight core components makes NJ Youth ChalleNGe unique and increases the chances for the graduating cadet's continued success.

The mentoring process actually begins during the Residential Phase when cadets and prospective mentors undergo mentor training. Following the required training, each cadet is matched with a caring, responsible adult by the 13th week of the Residential Phase. The mentoring relationship begins at that point and continues for a period of one year following graduation.

During the Post-Residential Phase, cadets and mentors meet regularly and work together to sustain the cadets' life style changes.


  1. Must be a citizen or legal resident of the United States and New Jersey.
  2. Must be between 16 and 18 years of age.
  3. Must be free from legal involvements; including probation, parole or any pending court matters.
  4. Must be drug and alcohol free (applicants will be tested).
  5. Must be a volunteer. Males and Females may apply.
  6. Must be officially withdrawn from High School at least one month prior to start date.

More Information

For more information visit the NJ Youth ChalleNGe Program website at www.nj.gov/military/challenge.

design & development: Fathom Creative, Inc. (fathomcreative.com), Anthony D. Paul (anthonydpaul), Brent Maxwell, Charlie Hoover, Shelli Martinez, Maribel Costa, Efrat Levush