About Us


In 1993, the Center for Strategic and International Studies published a study entitled, Forging a Military Youth Corps. That same year, Congress, acting upon the studies recommendations, provided funding in the 1993 Defense Authorization Act for the National Guard Bureau to conduct a pilot youth intervention program. The purpose of this pilot program was to determine if life coping skills and employability of a high school dropout could be significantly improved through participation in a life skills program using a military model.

Fifteen states became operational during the first five-year pilot period with Illinois chosen as one of the original pilot states. Currently, 29 states are operating Youth Challenge Programs. Illinois has the largest program with an annual target of 800 graduates. In May of 2001, the Illinois program's name was changed from Lincoln's ChalleNGe Program to Lincoln's ChalleNGe Academy

Moving Forward

The Lincoln's ChalleNGe Academy is currently on its 50th class and starting its twenty-fifth year of operation. The program has become immensely popular and has the potential of providing thousands of "at-risk" young men and women in Illinois with a new start.

Where traditional educational methods have failed, the Lincoln's ChalleNGe Academy has succeeded and proved to be a tremendous alternative for young people who have the ability to excel, but need an intensive, structured environment.

The graduates of the Lincoln's ChalleNGe Academy are disciplined and accomplished. They are on the road to becoming successful and contributing members of society and their community.

Lincoln's ChalleNGe is an investment in the future of Illinois communities. The cost to society without this program could be much greater if our youth are lost to unemployment, welfare, drugs, gangs or the judicial system. Current federal legislation provides a full time commitment to the Youth ChalleNGe Programs across the nation.

However, each ChalleNGe state will have to pay a portion of their Youth ChalleNGe Program's budget. The future of the Lincoln's ChalleNGe Academy appears promising, but it will require the support of the Governor, the Illinois General Assembly and concerned agencies, organizations, businesses and citizens. To see how you can help, visit our Volunteer or Contribute sections.

Core Objectives

The 8-core objectives are the goals established by the National Guard Bureau as the criteria for each cadet attending a Youth Challenge Program. These core objectives are as follows:

    • Academic Excellence pertains to the cadet increasing their educational grade level and/or obtaining a GED. The cadet must also pursue continuing their education or obtaining verifiable employment.

    • Job Skills includes the completion of the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), conducting personal career research, construction of a resume, responding to job advertisements and demonstrating interview skills. The cadet must demonstrate knowledge and skills required to seek, obtain and maintain employment.

    • Physical Fitness is determined by the participation in regularly scheduled physical fitness training, as well as demonstrating knowledge of fitness concepts. The cadets must improve their level of fitness in all categories of the President's Council on Physical Fitness Training.

    • Leadership/Followership concerns several aspects of leadership. The cadet will hold a leadership position on their team. They must show evidence of personal motivation and self-discipline on a continuing basis. Cadets must demonstrate moral and ethical leadership skills, good citizen values, respect for oneself and others, honesty and loyalty.

    • Health, Sex Education & Nutrition consist of the cadet demonstrating an understanding of substance abuse on physical health and well being. They must show an understanding of proper nutrition, sexually transmitted diseases and the importance of achieving good health.

    • Life Coping Skills is one of the most all-encompassing objectives of the program. This involves the understanding of basic economics and personal financial management, personal coping strategies (i.e., ability to deal with emotions such as anger, grief), conflict resolution strategies and the ability to set and achieve goals.

    • Responsible Citizenship will enable cadets to have a basic understanding of the Constitution and U.S. Government. This includes an understanding of the election and voting process. Students participating in the student government accomplish this by serving as a committee member or a student government officer.

    • Service to Community is accomplished by cadets participating in the planning, conduct and completion of community service projects and must complete a minimum of 40 hours of community service activities. This is designed to give cadets an understanding of their role as a community member and the need to assist those in need.

A youth attending a Challenge Program must achieve 80% of each objective's criteria, and he/she must complete all eight objectives before graduating from the Resident Phase and moving into the Post Resident Phase.

These objectives are taught during the 200 hours of classroom instruction and during daily activities. Cadets also attend classes for computer literacy to become familiar with current computer programs.

The Lincoln's ChalleNGe Academy is run by active members of the Illinois National Guard and retired military personnel. All instructors are certified teachers, and program counselors are qualified and experienced professionals.


Lincoln's ChalleNGe Academy
212 W. Borman
Rantoul, Illinois 61866
(800) 851-2166