JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The legislation is moving through the House that would help young escape adverse environments and have additional opportunities for positive growth and character development. Sponsored by state Rep. Steven Roberts, HB 1004 would re-establish the Youth Challenge Academy, which was discontinued in Missouri because of a lack of funding. The legislation received the approval of the House Special Committee on Urban Issues Monday, April 3.
Roberts’ bill would create the Youth Challenge Academy to offer a 17 ½ month military-based training program consisting of a 22-week Residential Phase and a one-year Post-Residential Phase. The core components of the program would include Academic Excellence, Physical Fitness, Leadership/Followership, Responsible Citizenship, Job Skills, Service to the Community, Health and Hygiene, and Life-Coping Skills.
Eligible participants would be high school dropouts between 16 and 18 years of age. Participants could not exceed 18 years of age on the first day of the Residential Phase of the program. Participants would also need to be unemployed or underemployed, drug-free
, not on parole or probation for other than juvenile status offenses, not awaiting sentencing, and not under indictment, charged, or convicted of a crime that is considered a felony when charged as an adult. Roberts said the program is not meant to be used by courts as an alternative to sentencing.
“As a former prosecutor, I cannot tell you how many young men I saw like myself who kept falling back in with friends who were indifferent to the negative consequences of their actions. This program is unique in that it removes an individual from a negative environment and provides opportunities for mentorships, community service and character development in a place where they are encouraged to thrive,” said Roberts, D-St. Louis.
Also testifying for the Youth Challenge Academy was Anthony “Tony” Bamvakais, Military Executive for the Office of the Adjutant General. Bamvakais served 26 years in the United States Army as an Aviation Officer.
Roberts noted that several states have a Youth Challenge Program through their respective National Guard departments (https://www.jointservicessupport.org/ngycp/). He said the time is right in Missouri to re-establish the program because federal matching funds can offset the bulk of the expenses of the academy. The federal government match is 75 percent, and the state is 25 percent. The estimated cost is approximately four million dollars a year for two courses including the one-year post-residential phase. In this case, the federal government would pay $3 million, and the state share would be $1 million per year. Another requirement is that the program be guaranteed funded by the state for at least three years.
For more information, contact Rep. Steven Roberts at 573-751-1400.