Potential new program would target Ohio’s at-risk youth



(The Center Square) – At-risk youth in Ohio struggling with school and behavior are in line for a program already in place in 30 other states.

The House Primary and Secondary Education Committee unanimously approved a bill that would create a feasibility study for the program similar to the Kentucky Bluegrass Challenge Academy.

The Ohio Legislative Service Commission reported the study would increase expenses for the Ohio Department of Education by a minimal amount.

“The Kentucky Bluegrass Challenge Academy is committed to guiding students through a journey of personal growth and academic achievement,” said Rep. Adam Mathews, R-Lebanon. “This important initiative, supported by countless families, aims to ensure that Ohio’s youth have access to the best tools available within our state.”

The Kentucky Department of Military Affairs operates the Kentucky Bluegrass Challenge Academy, a 17-month program with two phases.

The first is a five-month residential phase at Fort Knox, where students live and receive daily classes coordinated with the local school system. Students also receive counseling services.

The second phase has students move into a year-long post-residential phase. It includes “youth challenge” mentors working students to help with education, college enrollment or finding a job.

The program’s goals include every student gaining a high school diploma; assigning each student a mentor before leaving Fort Knox; placing 80% of the graduates in either high school, the military, secondary education, vocational placement or employment; and increasing every graduate’s academic performance.

“By equipping students with essential tools and experiences, the Kentucky Bluegrass Challenge Academy, if it were implemented in Ohio, we believe will empower them to make informed decisions and lead productive and meaningful lives,” said Rep. Phil Plummer, R-Dayton.

Since its inception in 1999, the program has graduated more than 4,000 students. Proponents say for every dollar invested the program generates an average of $2.66 in social benefits.

The bill heads to the full House.

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