WASHINGTON, Feb. 27 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Guard Youth Foundation hosted its third annual Challenge Champions Dinner and Awards Ceremony on Feb. 26, 2008 at the J.W. Marriott Hotel to honor advocates of the National Guard Youth Challenge Program, a 17-month voluntary intervention program established to provide training and education for high school dropouts interested in pursuing higher education, attaining employment or joining the military. The Youth Challenge program operates 35 programs in 29 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia and has graduated over 77,000 former high school dropouts since being founded in 1993. The event, emceed by Kerri Turner of JAG, honored the advocacy efforts of Senator Elizabeth Dole and Congressman Norm Dicks on behalf of Youth Challenge. Three-time Grammy winner and country music superstar Trisha Yearwood performed at the event that also featured NASCAR fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr., the new driver of the #88 National Guard car. Other awardees included Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, The Honorable Thomas Hall; the Adjutants General of West Virginia, Major General Allen Tackett and Curt Kolcun from Microsoft, who have contributed grants of over $7 million to the Youth Challenge program. "This event was an opportunity to gather and honor the exemplary efforts of those around the country who have championed the Youth Challenge program and pledged their unwavering support to ending the high school dropout crisis that has become a silent epidemic in this nation," said Greg Sharp, president of the National Guard Youth Foundation. "It was also an opportunity for supporters of the program to meet with young cadets and hear their transformational stories first-hand." The event was attended by over 1,000 guests, including Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England; the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen; Director National Guard Bureau, Lieutenant General H. Steven Blum; Secretary of Veterans Affairs James Peake; former Secretary of the Veterans Affairs Tony Principi; Secretary of the Air Force Michael Wynne; Director, Army National Guard, Lieutenant General Clyde Vaughn; Chairman of the Board of the National Guard Association of the United States and the Adjutant General of the state of Indiana, Major General Marty Umbarger; Senator Mary Landrieu (LA); Senator Ted Stevens (AK); Governor and Mrs. Brad Henry (OK); Governor Linda Lingle (HI) and Governor Jim Gibbons (NV), as well as other senior DOD officials and members of Congress. 100 Youth Challenge Cadets from across the country were also in attendance. About the National Guard Youth Challenge Program: The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program is a 17-month, co-ed program for 16- to 18-year-old high school dropouts that offers them the opportunity to enhance their life skills, earn their GED, pursue higher education, improve their employment potential and broaden their chances at success. Since being founded in 1993, the Youth Challenge has grown to 35 programs in 29 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia and has graduated over 77,000 former high school dropouts. For more information about the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program, go to http://www.ngycp.org. About the National Guard Youth Foundation: The National Guard Youth Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization formed to support the work of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program through public awareness, scholarships, higher education assistance, mentoring and job development programs for graduates. The Foundation works to expand the number of states and sites per state to accommodate growing demand for the program. The Honorary Board of Directors is co-chaired by Former President George H. W. Bush and Senator Mary L. Landrieu (D-La). For more information about the National Guard Youth Foundation, please visit www.ngyouthfoundation.org.
SOURCE National Guard Youth Foundation