Belize looks to La. Guard to create its own at-risk youth progra - KALB-TV News Channel 5 & CBS 2

Belize looks to La. Guard to create its own at-risk youth program

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PINEVILLE,La. (KALB News Channel 5) –The Louisiana National Guard welcomed a delegation from the Belize DefenseForce to Camp Beauregard in Pineville, La., to tour its Youth ChalleNGeProgram, Feb. 18-20.

The NationalGuard Bureau's State Partnership Program pairs countries and states together tolink U.S. national interests and security cooperation goals by engaging partnernations to establish and sustain enduring relationships to promote nationalobjectives, stability, partner capacity, better understanding and trust. TheLANG and BDF have been partners since 1996.

"The BDF,working through the State Partnership Program in Louisiana, requested to visitour Youth ChalleNGe Program. They are in the process of creating a very similarprogram for at-risk youth in Belize," said Col. Michael Borrel, director ofeducational programs for the Louisiana National Guard.

"Louisianahas three programs and has been in operation now for a little over 20 years.They [the BDF] were looking at how our program runs in all aspects; acceptingthe kids, criteria for the kids, as well as the residential and thepost-residential programs," he said.

Started inthe fall of 1993, LANG's YCP is nationally recognized as a successful model.The three locations at Camp Minden in Minden, La., Camp Beauregard inPineville, La., and Gillis W. Long Center in Baton Rouge, La., have graduated acombined 17,410 students.

According tothe Louisiana Department of Education, 8,704 students were classified as drop-outsin 2009-10. Each year, LANG YCP graduates roughly 1,400 students a year – asignificant percentage of Louisiana's drop-outs, with more than half receivinga general educational development (GED) certificate.

The Belizedelegation expressed excitement throughout the visit at the benefit to theyouth they witnessed and their hopes to educate and change the lives of at-riskyouth in Belize.

"I think yourprogram stands out as a successful model [to transform the lives of at-riskyouth]," said Capt. Marco Salam, officer-in-charge of the BDF delegationvisiting Camp Beauregard.

The BDF'sversion will be similar to Louisiana's system, but includes a larger age range,14-21, than LANG's program explained Salam.

The tour ofCamp Beauregard highlighted everything from dining facility procedures, laundryfacilities, access to medical care, to cadre staffing, budgeting, educationalinstruction, disciplinary measures and how essential it is to get the communityinvolved.

"We also gavethem a lot of techniques and procedures we use in getting the local businessesinvolved in the program so you have community buy-in. One of the most importantthings that makes the program a success is … getting them placed into society ina job or education where they become productive and don't revert back," saidBorrel.

Long termnumbers are particularly impressive for the program as well. At the end of theprogram's combined 17-month residential and post-residential phase, 81 percentof YCP graduates are employed, in an educational program of some type, havejoined the military or a combination of the three.

According toMaster Sgt. Richard Bullock, operations manager for LANG YCP, Louisiana'sprogram has achieved an 83% GED pass rate of the cadets tested. Over the lastfour years, the program has seen an average grade increase of more than twograde levels in reading and math in five months and has exceeded the nationalgrade level increase average for Youth ChalleNGe.

Looking to furtherincrease the post-residential success of its graduates, YCP partnered withoutside groups to offer even more to its graduates.

In the lastyear, LANG YCP began a pilot program that provides cadets with an opportunityto become certified in basic construction education and listed on the NationalCenter for Construction and Education Research (NCCER) register.

To date, 88students have completed the 90-hour course and received their certification ata pass rate of 85 percent. These additional qualifications further boosts thecadets' employability once leaving the program, said Bullock.

Additionally,Bossier Parish Community College partnered with YCP to allow cadets to receivecredit for college classes taken during their enrollment at YCP at no charge tothe cadet. BPCC has awarded more than 2,200 college hours to nearly 300students since the program began a year ago.

"We think ourpartnership with BPCC provides an enormous benefit for our cadets because itstarts them on a career path before they even leave YCP," said Borrel.

Oncecompleting the program, YCP graduates may also apply for a college scholarshipeach semester through the non-profit Military Education and TrainingEnhancement Fund to continue their education.

"In the lastyear alone, we have approved 21 scholarships, typically at $1,000 each," saidBullock.

Several moremeetings and discussions with the BDF are in the works over the coming year,but the groundwork has been laid to help Belize build a strong program at hometo help their youth.

 

"Seeing theprogram in action and learning about some of our policies – I think that justin itself was very beneficial [for the BDF]. I think they saw what right lookslike.

 

"It's aboutsharing with our partners," said Borrel.

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