Senator Roth’s Bill to Authorize Challenge Academy in Riverside County Signed by Governor

October 13, 2023

Sacramento, CA—Senator Richard D. Roth’s (D-Riverside) bill to authorize the creation of a Challenge Academy for western Riverside County has been signed by the Governor.

“We must do everything we can to help empower and uplift students and encourage them to finish their high school education and Challenge Academies have a long and successful history of doing that,” said Senator Roth.  “I thank the Governor for signing our legislation to authorize a Challenge Academy in western Riverside County.  This coupled with the $500,000 I secured in the state budget for a site location study means we are on our way!”

The former Navy Operational Support Center (NOSC) Moreno Valley located at March Air Reserve Base has been identified as a potential site for the Academy. This building was formerly part of March Air Force Base before the base was downsized. The California Military Department assessed the building for use as a Challenge program and determined that the location can accommodate a Challenge program with significant modification and renovations. The $500,000 is for a study that will validate the feasibility of continuing with the project and the future costs of construction.

Students dropping out of high school is an enduring challenge for both California and the nation. Data from the California Department of Education indicated that more than 47,000 California high school students dropped out of school in 2020-2021. To combat the societal strain upon the nation when students drop out of high school, The United States Congress established the Youth Challenge Program in 1993 under United States Code, title 32, section 509. The law tasked the National Guard Bureau (NGB) to develop an educational program for the thousands of at-risk youths who were dropping out of high school daily. The California Military Department (CMD) participates in this program through a cooperative agreement with NGB.

The CMD Youth Challenge Program provides an alternative educational opportunity set in a quasi-military environment for students ages 16-18 who have dropped out of school or are not progressing toward graduation. In partnership with the County Office of Education, programs consist of two phases—a 5 ½ month residential phase, followed by a 12-month post-residential phase involving screened and trained mentors who provide guidance and support to students. Historically, over one-third of Challenge graduates receive their high school diploma during the residential or post-residential phase of the program.