Cadets of La. National Guard’s Youth Challenge Program graduate

After 22 weeks of training, members of the Louisiana National Guard's Youth Challenge Program walked across the stage.
Published: Jan. 21, 2023 at 9:43 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 21, 2023 at 10:51 PM CST
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SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - On Saturday, Jan. 21, the Louisiana National Guard held a graduation for members of the Youth Challenge Program (YCP).

After 22 weeks of diligent training and strict guidance, those wearing cap and gowns say they believe their lives have changed, and they’re grateful to have participated in the program.

After 22 weeks of trainings, program members graduated.
After 22 weeks of trainings, program members graduated.(KSLA)

Jose Chavarria, along with his 72 other classmates, walked the stage.

“I was ignorant. I was just doing all the wrong things that a 16 [or] 17-year-old shouldn’t have been doing. When I came here, I had no idea this program was going to change my life,” said Chavarria, Cadet of the Cycle.

When KSLA covered the YCP prior, the news wasn’t so positive because troubled teens were escaping Camp Minden and causing problems throughout the town.

As the program intends, those mislead youths have done complete 180s and turned their lives around.

Jose Chavarria graduated from the National Guard Program.
Jose Chavarria graduated from the National Guard Program.(KSLA)

“I’ve changed my life completely, and my family’s proud of me. I feel proud of myself as well, and I feel like I’m somebody,” said Chavarria.

Chavarria graduated with a high honor as Cadet of Cycle. He’s a standout student, who’s proud of everyone he went through the program with.

“I’m proud of each and every one of us because on day zero, sitting on those bleachers, I didn’t think we’d make it,” said Chavarria.

They managed to make it though. Students, families, and staff felt quite emotional seeing everyone’s hard work finally pay off.

“We really have to praise and ensure that those students who graduated really understand what they’ve done. There wasn’t a dry eye in that audience,” said Kenneth Paul, Louisiana Education Programs Director.

Program leaders say they are proud of the young cadets.

“Our students have gone through a lot of adversity, whether it’s at home, whether it’s in the past with different schools. They’ve been through a lot. For them to go through 22 weeks and be as successful as they are right now, it’s just a testament to their fortitude and wanting to be something great in life,” boasted Paul.

A total of 73 cadets graduated.

After 22 weeks of trainings, program members graduated.
After 22 weeks of trainings, program members graduated.(KSLA)

The graduates did the following:

  • Averaged 1.3 grade level increase in TABE and a 32.1point scale increase
  • 31 cadets completed and passed HiSET and waiting final results for 21 additional HiSET testers
  • Earned 168 hours of college credits through Bossier Parish Community College and 90 hours of college credits through Northwest Louisiana Technical Community College
  • Collectively, cadets completed 4503 hours of beautification and service to community projects (averaging 62 hours per cadet)
  • Projects included: Choudrant Duck and Dog, Doyline Duck and Dog, Operation Christmas Child, Super Retrievers series, and several rodeos
  • 20 cadets participated in Job’s for America’s Graduates Program, which promotes academic and skills attainment, civic responsibility, leadership development, and social awareness needed to become a responsible and productive citizen

Names of 5-star cadets

  • Jexie Barrios from Golden Meadow
  • Jose’ Chavarria from Marrero
  • Jaydon Hurst from Lettsworth
  • Cameron Sanders from Mangham,
  • Destiny Stevenson from Baton Rouge

Name of Cadet of Cycle

  • Jose’ Chavarria from Marrero