Here at one of two Youth Challenge camps in Georgia, he rose at 4:30 a.m. each day, made his bunk with neat corners and sweated through an hour of calisthenics or running.
He has worn a uniform, marched in step with his platoon to the dining hall, completed 50 hours of community service, and spent long hours studying for the General Educational Development diploma that opens the door to college or career training for dropouts. The camp bars cigarettes and alcohol.
The early results of a national study comparing youths who qualified for the program and were then admitted or denied on a random basis suggest that Youth Challenge may be the most successful large-scale program yet evaluated to help dropouts.
Nine months after participants left the program, they were 36 percent more likely than those in the control group to have obtained a G.E.D. or a high school degree. They were more than three times as likely to be attending college and 9 percent more likely to be working full time.
It’s not rocket science, but the question is whether we want people in our society who need to be controlled, or whether we want those who have the innate tendencies to strive toward doing what is right.