INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana Adjutant General Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger recently announced that Congressman Mike Pence will be the keynote speaker at the graduation ceremony for the fifth class of the Hoosier Youth ChalleNGe Academy, a division of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program.
The ceremony will take place Saturday at the gymnasium of Franklin Community High School, 2600 Cumberland Dr., Franklin, at 10 a.m.
The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program, a voluntary, preventive program designed to give at-risk youth a second chance, began in 1993.
The class of 71 cadets is the fifth class to graduate from the residential phase of the Indiana program, which began in 2007.
"This event is one of the most rewarding I attend as adjutant general," Maj. Gen. Umbarger said. "I come back and every time I'm reminded that there is always hope. It's good to see these cadets have hope for their future."
The 17-and-a-half volunteer program is at no cost for at-risk teens and had three phases with the first two phases being in residence in a "quasi-military" environment at the academy.
The five-and-a-half month residential phase provides training for the cadets in the program's eight core components: academic excellence (with the objective of obtaining a GED), life coping skills, job skills, service to community, physical fitness, health and hygiene, leadership and followership and responsible citizenship.
"Not one of (the cadets) would tell you this was easy," retired Col. Wayne Hill, Director of the Hoosier Youth ChalleNGe Academy said. "But I don't believe one of them would trade this experience. They weren't here of their own accord, could have left at anytime. But they kept with it. On Dec. 19, I will present this graduating class to the State of Indiana and that will be my honor."
According to officials, area students will take part in Saturday's ceremony.