Springfield….State Representative Dan Swanson (R-Alpha) organized a legislative tour of Lincoln’s Challenge Academy in Rantoul last week to provide lawmakers an opportunity to learn about the program for troubled youth.
“Lincoln’s Challenge Academy is a success story that I feel my colleagues should be aware of,” said Rep. Dan Swanson. “Sometimes families need an option that takes their child out of the usual environment to help re-focus their goals and self-esteem in a positive way.”
The program combines classroom instruction, service to community, life skills, job skills, computer literacy, physical training, and challenging individual and team activities into one unique experience. Students are supervised at all times and must remain at the facility unless participating in an authorized off-campus activity with staff.
The five-month (22-week) Residential Phase is spent on campus in Rantoul, Illinois, where the days are long, mental and physical activities are rigorous and personal time is very limited. In addition to physical training and classroom instruction, each cadet completes at least 40 hours of service to community activities. It is during this phase the cadet is matched with a mentor. They choose their mentor from their personal support network before they arrive at the academy.
Upon successful completion of the Residential Phase, cadets enter the 12-month Post-Resident Phase where the graduate returns to the community and works toward completion of their Individual Life Plan. They start the process of beginning their adult life and using their new skills by continuing their education, volunteering, or seeking employment. It is in this phase the mentor takes on an active role and serves as a role model and motivator for the graduate.
There is no cost to attend the academy. Uniforms, meals, and linens are provided. Cadets only have to bring personal hygiene items and a pair of running shoes.
“When legislators know and understand about this program, they will be better able to support the needs of Lincoln’s Challenge Academy and be able to help update the public policies and funding opportunities that help keep a successful program like this a viable option for teens and families,” added Rep. Swanson.
Although the Department of Military Affairs does administer the program, there is absolutely no military obligation for those who attend Lincoln’s Challenge Academy in Rantoul. To learn more about this program, you may find information online at LincolnsChallenge.org.