Michigan ChalleNGe cadet meets Dale Earnhardt Jr.
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Respect, hard work, integrity. These were not words familiar to Dylan Johnson’s way of living. Instead, his life was dominated by unhealthy habits and a lack of direction, which ultimately led to dropping out of high school.
Today, life is different. The 17-year-old Rockford native is on firmer footing, thanks to the Michigan Youth ChalleNGe Academy (MYCA), one of 35 National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Programs nationwide supported by the National Guard Youth Foundation (NGYF). The nonprofit NGYF is dedicated to addressing the nation’s alarming school dropout crisis by helping youth, like Johnson, to get a second chance to receive their high school diplomas or GED through ChalleNGe, and to reconnect with mainstream society through mentorship, training and workforce transition.
“I was stuck in a tough position. I was 17 years old, quit school and never had a job,” said Johnson, who was among two MYCA cadets honored at the Pure Michigan 400 for his leadership at the academy. “While here at MYCA, I have learned how to lead and how to follow. Most of all, I learned who I am and what I am capable of achieving.”
“We’re honored to be involved with the National Guard Youth Foundation and help raise awareness of the problem of high school dropouts in our country,” said Earnhardt Jr., who drives the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS for Hendrick Motorsports. “These are great kids, but they’ve fallen off the radar for any number of reasons. We have to give them the full attention they need and deserve. I’ve seen how the National Guard Youth Foundation and ChalleNGe do that and get them back on track, which is life-changing and so critical.”
One of 129 cadets at MYCA, Johnson is on his way to reaching his goals of graduating and learning the skills to carve out a career to succeed in life. In total, 2,544 youth have graduated from the Michigan program at Battle Creek since ChalleNGe started in the state 14 years ago. The program empowers participants like Johnson to embrace responsibility, achievement and positive behavior while instilling self-confidence, ambition and opportunity through job skills training, service to the community and leadership, often dramatically changing the trajectory of their lives.
Nearly one in four students in the U.S. leaves school before graduating. Helping more than 115,000 teens to date across the country turn their lives around, ChalleNGe – a 17-month voluntary education and workforce development program that culminates in high school graduation or attainment of a GED – is recognized as among the most cost-effective, highly rated programs of its kind for at-risk youth.
• An independent, multi-year study of ChalleNGe by MRDC shows that high school diploma/GED attainment increases 29 percent, college attendance by 86 percent and annual earnings by 20 percent.
• An independent cost-benefit analysis by the RAND Corporation shows a 166 percent return on investment in ChalleNGe – every dollar spent yields a return of $2.66 in benefits to society.
For more information, go to www.ngyf.org.