Our Mission

The mission of the South Carolina Youth ChalleNGe Program is to form a strong partnership with youth between the ages of 16 and 18 years old in creating and maintaining a viable plan for their educational and career goals while reaffirming the skills and talents they possess.


We offer two classes per year, in January and July. Our program provides a wealth of educational enrichment offered by the staff and facilities with the SC National Guard’s commitment to serving the state’s at-risk youth. This collaboration makes an unprecedented pledge of success to our at-risk youth–youth who represent South Carolina’s future.

The Youth Challenge Academy is not for everyone. It’s not a summer camp…it’s tough. When you enroll, you commit to no alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drugs. You commit to discipline which is the critical factor in helping you build your own confidence, self-respect and physical conditioning.

Not all who enroll will graduate, but those who do find they’ve turned the corner in getting their lives together.

The Youth Challenge Academy is designed to help youth acquire the basic skills and education necessary to succeed in life. Youth will have the opportunity to earn their General Equivalency Diploma or GED.

Challenge is two-part program:

The first part, the Residential Phase, is five months long. The Residential Phase includes a two-week Acclimation period, a short opportunity to adjust to the rigors and discipline of the program.

The eight core components are studied during the residential phase: Academic Excellence, Life-Coping Skills, Job Skills, Health and Hygiene, Responsible Citizenship, Service to Community, Leadership/Followership, and Physical Fitness.

Military Structure

Current and retired members of the South Carolina National Guard and other branches of the military provide military leadership and discipline for students during the residential phase of the program. The ChalleNGe Academy is premised upon leadership, teamwork, and self-discipline as taught and modeled within a quasi-military framework. Students can expect these values to be thoroughly integrated into all aspects of the ChalleNGe Academy, honoring the motivation and desire of an entering student into a productive, employable young adult graduate.

GED testing

Youth Challenge cadets take classes in general studies that will guide them toward the knowledge they will need to successfully complete General Educational Development or GED tests. These classes include science, mathematics, social studies, and language arts. During the academy cycle, cadets take the GED Official Practice Test, which helps identify academic strengths, as well as areas where they might need improvement. Upon completion of the academic portion of Youth Challenge, cadets have an opportunity to take the official GED tests, either during the residential or post-residential phases.

Driver’s Education

Cadets who enter Youth Challenge with a South Carolina Class D Beginner’s Permit and who qualify can participate in a licensed and certified driver’s education program. Upon completion of the training, held on site at the McCrady Training Center, and the required number of behind-the-wheel hours, cadets will have the opportunity to earn their driver’s licenses.

Placement and Transition

The South Carolina Youth Challenge Academy has a number of informative resources and a cadre of staff members to help guide cadets as they make positive decisions about their futures. For example, each class is presented with a Career Day, which is an opportunity for cadets to learn about various occupations from seasoned professionals throughout the state. After the first 22 weeks of the residential phase of the Youth Challenge program, cadets enter the post residential phase that focuses on maintaining and building on the basic values and lifestyle changes they have learned. The academy offers a placement program, which helps graduates secure employment, continue on with further education, or enter the military. All cadets are matched with a mentor, the main contact a graduate has with Youth Challenge. This mentoring program serves as the glue that holds the post residential phase together. The mentors, caring adults who are consistent, positive role models, forge relationships with the graduates and are there to help guide them toward success in their futures.

Opportunity for Scholarships

SCYCA offers the opportunity for graduates to earn various scholarships after graduating from the program.

After-school extracurricular activities

In its efforts to expose cadets to the positive things they can do, Youth Challenge offers a variety of extracurricular, after school clubs and activities. In addition, during each cycle, cadets are treated to field trips around the state.

Goodwill Ambassadors

During each cycle, Youth Challenge cadets who truly stand out as strong, future leaders are named Goodwill Ambassadors. In this capacity, the ambassadors embark on recruiting field trips around South Carolina to help the academy spread the word about the program. Not only does Youth Challenge benefit from these dynamic ambassadors, but the cadets are afforded a valuable opportunity to build on their public speaking and networking skills. 

Post Residential Phase

During the second part, the Post-Residential Phase, students pursue their academic and vocational goals with the guidance of a mentor from their home community. The mentor helps the graduate to explore continued opportunities for success by assisting with career planning and decision making.

"I'm proud of myself now and what I can do. My confidence level is definitely high because I've accomplished so much."

SC Youth Challenge Graduate