Helping At-Risk Youth: Evaluation of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program
High school dropouts who are unemployed are at greater risk of long-term unemployment, welfare dependence, and involvement with the criminal justice system. The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe program aims to improve the education, life skills, and employment potential of these dropouts. The intervention is organized around eight core components: academic excellence, life coping skills, health and hygiene, responsible citizenship, community service, leadership/followership, physical fitness and job skills. The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded $12 million to three existing National Guard Youth ChalleNGe grantees to expand their programs to reach court-involved youth and add a vocationally focused component called Job ChalleNGe.
To help understand how the program impacts court-involved youth and the employment outcomes of all youth, Mathematica, Social Policy Research Associates, and MDRC are conducting a two-part evaluation: an implementation study to help program administrators better understand the program’s key strengths and identify challenges and a rigorous random assignment study of Job ChalleNGe to determine the program’s effectiveness. The study team will collect administrative and program data to measure service receipt and outcomes for all youth through interviews with program staff and employers, focus groups with youth, case file reviews, and program observations. Follow-up surveys will be administered to participants to better understand the impact of Job ChalleNGe.