Is traditional high school not a good fit for your child?
Is your child between the ages of 16 and 18?
If you answered yes to those two questions, the New Jersey Youth Challenge Academy may be an option.
The NJ Youth Challenge Academy is a unique military style “No Fee” program that is funded 75% by the federal government and 25% by the New Jersey National Guard. The program has been serving youth across New Jersey for the past 28 years. Recently, the program was expanded to allow qualified New York City youth to attend.
The Academy’s mission 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 attending high school.”
The Academy is a two-phased program that includes a 22-week Residential Phase and a 12-month post-residential phase for a total of 17 ½ months. Applicants wishing to attend must volunteer to attend. Parents cannot enroll their child into the program. The program is NOT a “Boot Camp” style program for juvenile justice. Each applicant is interviewed and must be alcohol and drug free to be accepted. If accepted, the candidate will be offered a seat.
During the Residential Phase the cadets live at the Academy, which is located at Joint Base Maguire – Dix – Lakehurst, in Burlington County, New Jersey. The residential phase begins with an “Acclimation Period” for the first two weeks. During this period applicants have an opportunity to adjust to the physical, mental and social discipline of the program. If they complete this phase the applicant becomes a full-fledged “Cadet.”
Cadets must successfully complete the 8 Core Components: Academic Excellence, Life Coping Skills, Job Skills, Health and Hygiene, Responsible Citizenship, Service to the Community, Leadership/Fellowship and Physical Fitness to graduate the Academy. Cadets that excel in academics are offered the opportunity to test for a New Jersey High School Diploma.
A typical school day during the Residential Phase includes;
Physical Training 5:45am to 7am
Chow (Breakfast) 7am
Class Begins at 8:35am
Company Formation 10am
Class Resumes 10:21am
Chow (Lunch) 12pm
Class Resumes 1:15pm
Company Formation 2:46pm
Class Resumes 3:01pm
Class Ends 3:45pm
Chow (Dinner) 4:45pm
Homework/Study Time 6pm to 7pm
Uniform Preparation Time 7pm to 7:30pm
Personal Hygiene 7:30pm to 8:30pm
Lights Out 9pm
Non-school days include recreational activities, including sports, trips and community service events. The Academy also partners with local businesses, colleges and the military to offer cadets options to guide them in the Post-Residential Phase.
At the 13-week mark, cadets are matched with a Mentor from their community. The Mentor is a non-relative, who helps keep the cadet focused. Mentorship is a key focus of the program.
After successfully completing Academy, the cadets graduate and move on to Post-Residential Phase in their community. They maintain communication with their mentor as they apply the skills they learned in the program.
The NJ Youth Challenge Academy is not easy, but it does appear to be rewarding!
You can learn more about the program and how to apply here: