GA National Guard boot camp gives troubled kids a second chance - CBS46 News

GA National Guard boot camp gives troubled kids a second chance

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ATLANTA (CBS46) -

Teenagers who commit crimes and end up in jail or juvenile detention centers can be a drain on the system. According to the state they cost tax payers nearly $100 million a year in expenses.

The Georgia National Guard holds two academies a year, one in Fort Stewart, the other in Augusta at Fort Gordon. Teenagers aged 16 to 18 have the opportunity to turn their lives around with the 22 week boot camp.

At the camps, men and women can earn their GED or High School Diplomas. Some, will go back and finish high school.

"I was homeless since January," Joshua Simmons said. The Atlanta resident said he had a family member join the Youth Challenge Academy and thought it would be a good way to get his life on track. At 11 years old, Simmons said he was dealing drugs, and carrying a gun.

"How hard is it to get a gun on the streets?" CBS46's Mike Paluska asked.

"It's easy to get a .22 magnum where I am from," Simmons said. "It's just like buying a car."

Simmons said he had a daughter when he was just 14. She is now 2 years old and Simmons hopes the academy will get his life on track. During a shootout, Simmons watched a friend get shot and die in front of him.

"That's not the life I want for my daughter," Simmons said.

The Youth Challenge Academy is currently operating in 27 states. Since its inception YCA has graduated more than 120,000 at-risk youths from the program.

For each dollar it costs to run the program, a recent RAND Corporation found the Youth Challenge Program generated $2.66 in benefits for every dollar spent. Graduates of the program are also more likely to finish school, enlist in the military, and become productive members for society.

High school dropouts are more likely to earn lower wages, end up in prison, abuse drugs, alcohol and have children out of wedlock.

Simmons said once he graduates the program, his biggest challenge will be avoiding bad influences in his old neighborhood.

"I don't even want to go on that side of town sometimes," Simmons said. "They need to make like a big brother. Some of them over there need more community, than being at the house seeing people all shooting and drug dealing."

After graduating from the academy there is a 12-month mentoring phase to help keep kids on track.

You can find more information on Georgia's Youth Challenge Academy on their website.

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