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La. Guard Program adds pathway to graduation

by Minden Press-Herald

Sgt. Noshoba Davis
Louisiana National Guard

PINEVILLE, La. – The Louisiana National Guard’s Youth Challenge Program officially added a new program designed to allow students to complete credits and return to high school following graduation from YCP.

Course Choice Credit Recovery is an innovative pathway that allows students to recover or continue earning high school credits, known as Carnegie units, while at YCP. The pilot program was launched in October 2017. After its successful introduction, the first official students enrolled in January and are set to graduate this June.

“These new pathways are opening up doors for people who may not have considered YCP as an option for them,” said Megan Ready, the public relations manager for YCP. “This pathway is designed for students to take a break from whatever is happening in life, get back on track if they need any credits recovered and go back as a better, more focused student.”

Retired Master Sgt. Richard Bullock, former YCP operations manager, said that per National Guard Bureau regulation, YCPs were only allowed to accept high school dropouts. This caused school systems to see the program as competition instead of as a partner.

“We went to NGB and asked for an exception to the drop out policy and received approval,” said Bullock.

Bullock and his team then worked with the Louisiana Department of Education and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop the CCCR program for YCP.

Robert “Ben” Banks, a Deville native and junior at Buckeye High School, jumped at the opportunity to attend the YCP program and go back to school upon completion when he heard about the new program. Students that are participating in the new pathway and not pursuing a High School Equivalency Diploma must be referred by their school counselor.

Ben was one of five students to participate in the pilot for the Course Choice pathway at the Gillis W. Long Center location, October 2017 – March 2018.

“I did well in school. I was an A/B student, but school was boring,” said Banks. “I wasn’t the best of kids. I was making bad choices and needed something to help me not make those choices.”

After graduating in March, Ben returned to Buckeye High School to finish out the school year with his classmates.

“I had the option to finish my courses online, but chose to go back to the classroom,” said Banks. “I’ve noticed since YCP it’s easier for me to focus and that I’ve become a better student as a whole. I learned that my teachers appreciate a good student and that’s what I’m striving to be now.”

Bill Christophe, the lead instructor for Camp Beauregard’s YCP explained that the goal is to keep a student on track or get them caught up if they need to recover a few credits.

“This is a big step for Youth Challenge and the public school systems because we all benefit and the whole purpose as an educator is to try and provide what’s best for our students,” said Christophe. “Ideally, we get a student who is fairly close to being on track in school.”

YCP students receive instruction from state-certified teachers in the classroom for each course they are taking through Course Choice. Students in CCCR use an online curriculum from Odysseyware or Edgenuity to complete the course assigned to them and work at their own pace.

“The benefits for this pathway are multilevel,” said Bullock. “For YCP this brings in a whole new pool of students to reach, schools don’t lose funding for the student attending, and the students get to stay on track, return to school and graduate with their class.”

While a student is at YCP their school counselors will receive progress reports on the student’s progress. This allows schools to keep their funding for the student and receive a 100 for that student on their school performance score instead of a zero had the student dropped out and attended YCP.

Since the new pathway was officially launched in January, a total of 28 students have started the CCCR Program.

Currently, seven CCCR students are attending YCP at Camp Beauregard, eight are attending at Camp Minden and 13 students are scheduled to attend YCP at Gillis Long Center.

In addition to academics, students learn social skills, conduct team building exercises and conduct 40 hours of community service.

YCP is an alternative educational program which offers at-risk 16-18 year-olds an opportunity to change their future outside of a traditional school setting. The 17-month program consists of two phases: residential and post residential. During the 22-week residential phase, students live on site at one of three locations in the state where they attend school, receive individual counseling and are supervised 24 hours a day. After graduation, they return home and enter a 12-month post residential phase. During this phase, graduates are assisted by YCP case managers and community mentors to continue their education, enroll in college, begin job training, find employment or enlist in the military.

The LANG YCP graduates 1,400 cadets annually and conducts the program at 3 different locations: Gillis W. Long Center in Carville, Camp Beauregard in Pineville and Camp Minden in Minden.

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