The ChalleNGe experience has transformed the lives of over 113,000 youth. The changes are powerful, from the outside in, and the inside out! The positive results not only impact the graduates, but also their family and community. Read through the ChalleNGe Phases and Core Components for an overview of the experience, and then visit the Alumni Success Stories for proof of positive results.

ChalleNGe Phases

Residential Phase

The two-week Acclimation Period precedes the Residential Phase and orients Candidates to the ChalleNGe program environment by allowing them to adjust to the physical, mental and social discipline required to successfully complete the program.  The focus is on teamwork, close quarter drill, code of conduct, leadership and followership, and physical fitness training.  Candidates relinquish personal items, receive haircuts, and exchange their street clothes for uniforms, placing them all on a level playing field.  During the Acclimation Period, staff members continually assess each Candidate’s potential for success in the Residential Phase.  Candidates learn to replace negative behaviors, attitudes, and skills and are introduced to daily experiences of healthy routines and a structured and disciplined environment.  At the end of the Acclimation Period motivated Candidates are selected to enroll in ChalleNGe and become cadets.  Historically, the majority of the selected Cadets will go on to successfully complete the Residential Phase.  During the next five-months of the Residential Phase, Cadets are fully immersed in a residential and adherence to societal norms.  During the Residential Phase, Cadets experience a structured and disciplined schedule that focuses on developing their social, emotional, academic, and basic life skills.  This is accomplished through the implementation of the Eight Core Components, the foundation of the ChalleNGe program intervention model.  Cadets complete the Residential Phase with the skills and values necessary for their successful transition and integration into adult society.  Mentors are matched with cadets midway through the Residential Phase.  The mentors help support the cadets during the remainder of the Residential Phase and help them prepare to reenter community life.  Mentors continue their responsibilities during the 12-month Post-Residential Phase.


ChalleNGe uses a Youth Initiated Mentoring match; when applicants apply to the program they identify potential Mentors from their local community. Mentors are formally screened and trained prior to ceremonial matching with their Mentees to begin fostering their newly defined relationship and communication about the Cadet’s future plans. Once formally matched, the Cadet and Mentor are allowed to spend off-site time together, often performing service to the community or exploring job and school options. The mentoring relationship forms the core of a youth’s Post-Residential ChalleNGe experience. It is within the safety of this relationship that a young person can evaluate what was learned in ChalleNGe and apply it to real life.

Post-Residential Phase

The 12-month Post-Residential Phase begins when graduates return to their communities, to return to high school, pursue higher education, find a job, join the military, or volunteer at least 30 hours a week. The goal of this Phase is for graduates to sustain and build on the gains made during the Residential Phase. In addition, they must continue to develop and implement their life plans.

The mentors, matched with cadets during the Residential Phase, play a critical role in ensuring their continued success. They help youth transition from the structured environment of the Residential Phase to self-management. The mentors also support and guide the cadets through implementation of their Life Plans.

Core Components

Academic Excellence

All ChalleNGe participants attend daily academic classes that increase math and reading comprehension and prepare them for General Education Development (GED) credential testing, credit recovery, or a high school diploma. Evaluation of a cadet’s grade level progress during the Residential Phase is measured using the Tests of Adult Basic Education (TABE) testing process. Cadets also explore the knowledge and skills required to pursue future educational opportunities.

Health and Hygiene

Cadets learn the value of a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle. ChalleNGe offers a holistic approach that combines physical and mental well-being as cadets explore the effects of substance abuse and sexually transmitted diseases on their physical health and well-being. Cadets learn the physical and emotional benefits of proper nutrition through participation in classes and structured group discussions.

Job Skills

Cadets prepare for long-term, gainful employment. Career exploration is accomplished through career assessment and interest inventories, job-specific skills orientation and awareness, and training in area vocational centers. Specific classroom activities focus on development of individual resumes, completing job applications, and preparation for and conduct of job interviews.


Cadets develop strong character while identifying and applying individual moral and ethical standards to perform various roles and responsibilities in a structured group environment. They learn to willingly comply with established rules, regulations, and procedures; perform basic military customs and courtesies; define and recognize leadership skills, traits, dimensions, and components; employ leadership skills while performing in a leadership position; maintain a personal living area; and function as an effective team member.

Life-Coping Skills

Cadets learn skills designed to last a lifetime. Increased self-esteem and self-discipline are gained through a combination of classroom activities, group discussions, and a structured living environment. Cadets learn how to identify and self-regulate emotions, such as anger, grief, frustration, and stress and how to utilize conflict resolution strategies. ChalleNGe provides the educational resources necessary to foster fiscal responsibility, helping cadets understand personal finance, basic banking, obtaining and managing good credit, and how to prepare and manage a personal budget.

Physical Fitness

Physical fitness becomes an integral part of cadet daily life. Cadets perform physical training based on the President’s Challenge, a test battery based on data collected from a variety of sources including the 1985 President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports National School Population Fitness Survey, the Amateur Athletic Union Physical Fitness Program, and the Canada Fitness Award Program.

Responsible Citizenship

Cadets discover their role in the democratic process and learn their rights, privileges, and obligations as United States citizens. The U.S. Government structure and processes, along with individual rights and responsibilities at the local, state and national level, are addressed in the classroom environment, in the student government process, and through practical experiences within local communities. Those who are eligible register for selective service and to vote.

Service to Community

Cadets realize the value and importance of giving back to the community while performing a minimum of 40 hours of service to the community and/or conservation project activities in groups and on an individual basis. These activities provide additional opportunities for career exploration as well as enhancing community-needs awareness in cadets.