Nevada has the highest high school drop out rate in the nation. To battle those statistics the Nevada Air Guard is partnering up with the Arizona guard to get our silver state teenagers a military style bootcamp education.
In part three of Jennifer Rogers series the "Tough Love Academy," I talk with the kids about to graduate from the program about their futures - and the future of bringing Project Challenge to Nevada.
These kids have been hitting the books for what seems like, forever. Each one is learning not only about academics, but also themselves and what they want to accomplish in the future.
Says Chris White of Carson City: "It's given me a perspective on what I want to do."
Once Chris graduates from Project Challenge he wants to get a computer job or join the military. Both ideas come with full support from his family. "I'm so proud of this kid. It's been three and a half months since I seen him and he's going in a different direction now," says Chris' father, Russell.
"I've always wanted success for him. I've only wanted him to be a happy person and a successful adult and I think this has been the answer to that," says his step-mother Loretta Rose Peterson White.
It's also an answer to Reno resident Amber Soto. "This has done so much for me, wow! I'm in college now. I've got my GED through the program," she says.
And she isn't stopping there. Amber is enrolled at Truckee Meadows Community college and "I want to get my nursing degree. It's a very big goal in my life right now," she says.
Goals that will hopefully be accomplished thanks to Project Challenge's rigorous five-month course.
In describing the boot-camp atmosphere, Sgt. Maj. Alan Callanan of the Army National Guard says" "The first two weeks is very rough. They are leaving home for the first time and we are going to treat them in not a very nice manner."
He says the key to this programs success is discipline.
For the past four months this has been part of the teenagers routines and they say it's changed their lives.
For many of these kids it's the only time they have had someone to keep them on track and focused on their goals.
Callanan says the only downfall is this program isn't cheap. It cost $15,000 to send each kid to Project Challenge . . . money that comes from the National Air Guard and the state and federal government.
While it may sound like a lot of cash, organizers say it's a small price to pay to transform the future of Nevada.
"I walk with a little more pride than I use to. I feel confident like I'm ready for changes in my life," says one Project Challenge graduate.
Callanan says he hopes with enough community support Project Challenge can be moved to Nevada. If you know anyone who could benefit from the program...call Sergeant Major Callanan at 885-8201 or at 887-7357.
To enroll you must be a high school drop out between the ages of 16-18.