ELKO, Nev. — The inaugural class of students in the Battle Born Youth ChalleNGe Academy made Nevada history by graduating from the residential phase of the program during a ceremony at the Elko Convention Center Dec. 17, 2021.
All 21 students completed the rigorous 22-week residential portion of the program and are transitioning to the one-year mentorship phase as they return to their respective local, traditional high schools.
Opened last February, the Battle Born Youth ChalleNGe Academy is the state- and Nevada Guard-sponsored educational academy participating in the overarching National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program. The voluntary program is for at-risk 16- to 18-year-olds who have dropped out of school or are not progressing academically, are unemployed or under-employed.
Lauren Schulman, program director, said the first class of BBYCA students proved to be “phenomenal.”
“This class established a standard of excellence that all future classes will aspire to match,” Schulman said. “The students all made a remarkable journey from compliance to self-reliance.”
Schulman said two of the 21 students are back on track to graduate with their local Class of 2022 peers in June. The 19 younger students who completed the residential phase also made enough academic progress to graduate on time with the Classes of 2023 and 2024 if they continue to accrue required credits.
The class worked on far more than just academics during the fall semester; Schulman said each student recorded at least 40 hours of service to the Elko County community last autumn, including work in cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management and the California Trail Interpretative Center.
The students’ graduation marked the realization of a dream come true for Nevada Guard officials, state legislators and educators, and BBYCA supporters across the Silver State.
The idea of the Battle Born Youth ChalleNGe Academy was brought to light by Heather Golding and Grace Nichols of Reno in 2016 when they asked now-retired Brig. Gen. Bill Burks, adjutant general, about the possibility of the National Guard’s regimented Youth ChalleNGe Program expanding to the Silver State.
The measure to establish the BBYCA was passed in 2019 by the Nevada Legislature, which appropriated $500,000 annually for the program. Federal funds added about $1.5 million annually.
The Elko County Readiness Center, which previously housed one detachment of the 593rd Transportation Company, serves as the campus for the BBYCA.
Schulman said the program is accepting applications for the spring 2022 semester, with room for 55 students.