AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Students graduated from Fort Gordon’s Youth ChalleNGe Academy Saturday morning after completing the five-and-a-half month program.
Graduate 17-year-old Quentin Vaughn feels like he’s on top of the world.
He says he feels “great, happy, excited [and] amazing,” after graduation.
“All of the kids that are interested, they first and foremost have to volunteer for the program,” said Jerome Lyles, director of Fort Gordon’s Youth ChalleNGe Academy. “Age 16 to 18 years old who [are] willing to be drug-free, and bottom line they just want to do something better with themselves.”
Those kids who rose to the occasion graduated Saturday, which is no easy task. Of the 276 who started out the course, only 174 made it to the end.
“It’s a matter of heart and mind to come and push through this course,” Lyles said. “The biggest part is being away from home. Being able to do what you want to do, when you want to do it, how you want to do it– because when they come to our program, we have rules, regulations, guidelines, and we try to hold the kids to that standard.”
Instructors teach kids lessons in the program about character and hard work using positive reinforcement.
“Here in our program, we highlight their successes,” Lyles said.
Now, Quentin plans to get a job, start college and enlist in the army.
“I’ve seen the growth. I’ve seen the maturity,” said Quentin’s mother Lynette Vaughn. “I’ve seen him develop into a very respectful, decent young man, and that’s what we want for our younger generation. So I would definitely recommend this program. I’m just happy right now…I’m lost for words.”
Youth ChalleNGe Academy tracks the kids for 12 months after graduation to make sure they are acclimating into a job, school, volunteer work or the armed forces.
You can apply to the program here.