The Louisiana National Guard Youth Challenge Program graduated more than 200 cadets Saturday at the Shreveport Municipal Auditorium.

The graduating class of 219 from Minden includes 73 cadets who participated in the Bossier Parish Community College and Associated Building Contractors program. Through partnerships with BPCC and ABC, YCP is now offering students additional opportunities to further their educational goals.

Some 40 students had the potential to earn up to 21 transferrable college credits, and 33 students had the potential to earn up to 15 transferrable college credits before graduating from the five and a half month residential phase. In total, more than 1,137 transferrable college credits were earned.

Additionally, in partnership with ABC, 42 cadets completed a 90-hour NCCER course, which allows them to become certified in basic construction technology.

State Sen. Gerald Burns, district 31, addressed the class, and state Rep. Henry Burns, district 9, was in attendance.

This graduating class includes 10 cadets who were awarded the rank of 5-star, which is the highest rank a cadet can achieve. These cadets have excelled in all aspects of the program and have been selected as leaders among their peers. Of the top cadets, D’Shawna Burgess, of Denham Springs, was selected as the Cadet of the Cycle, and delivered the commencement speech during the ceremony.

“YCP graduations are always bittersweet,” Capt. Jason Montgomery, director of YCP at Camp Minden said. “Watching the cadets grow, from week one to week 22 is a blessed experience. The journey has been long, and they have earned the privilege to graduate. The Youth Challenge Program changes lives, of both cadets and staff. I’m grateful just to have the opportunity to impact the lives of these young adults.”

The mission of YCP is to intervene in and reclaim the lives of 16- to 18-year-old adolescents, producing program graduates with the values, life skills, education and self-discipline necessary in order to succeed as productive citizens. YCP offers young people an opportunity to improve their lives through participation in an innovative, alternative school.

The Youth Challenge Program is administered to participants at no cost, and all needs such as meals, bedding, classroom instruction and uniforms are provided free of charge. This award-winning program has been recognized as one of the nation’s most effective and cost-efficient programs for targeting at-risk youth.