YORK, Pa. (WHTM) – Local lawmakers want to give high school dropouts a second chance. They’re trying to bring a first of its kind school to the Midstate and are drafting a bill in hopes of doing that.
York County Reps. Stan Saylor (R) and Kristin Phillips-Hill (R) are working with Dauphin County Rep. Patty Kim (D) to bring a program called the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe to Pennsylvania.
“27 states currently have it at 36 different sites, and we would like to get our first here in the Midstate at Fort Indiantown Gap,” York County Clerk of Courts Don O’Shell said.
Phillips-Hill, Saylor, and staff from Kim’s office went to the Freestate ChalleNGe Program at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland and spoke to students there.
“What they said was this was really their last chance. For whatever reason, they had been greatly involved in the juvenile justice system. They had dropped out. They were supporting their families. They just couldn’t get their act together,” Phillips-Hill said.
The three representatives who are sponsoring the bill will ask for $2 to $3 million a year to run the program. 75 percent of the money would be from the federal government and the other 25 percent would come from the state.
O’Shell has seen firsthand the effects of kids dropping out of high school. He sent a letter to Governor Tom Wolf asking for his support.
“It’s proven again and again to be a great return on investment. The students who enter this program and graduate from it earn GEDs or go back into high school. They do better than 86 percent of their peers in terms of post-secondary education,” O’Shell said.
Phillips-Hill says the group of lawmakers are working with the National Guard to draft the bill. They hope to have the program up and running in two years if it makes it through the state legislature. The bill would require a governing council and regular audits of the program.
“It is really important that we help every student in Pennsylvania create their own pathway to success, and this is one way that we will be able to do that,” Phillips-Hill said.
Phillips-Hill said Governor Wolf supports the idea of bringing a ChalleNGe Program to the Midstate. Sen. Stewart Greenleaf filed a similar bill in the Pennsylvania Senate.
The program has produced 140,000 graduates since it started in 1993. It focuses on improving education, employment potential, and life skills of students. Applicants must be drug free and not on parole or probation.