Montana Youth Challenge offers different route for some

Jack Miller, Geyser Staff Writer

In 1993, Congress created the National Guard Youth Challenge Program, a civilian youth opportunities program and authorized the Secretary of Defense to use the National Guard Bureau to conduct the program for at risk youth. Park High has had a few students take this option over the years and the amount that enroll differs from year to year. This past year four boys attended the program, one of them a good buddy of mine, Tim Murphy. When we spoke about writing this article he was chomping at the bit to tell me about the experience, for better or worse.

Murphy’s overall opinion of the program was, “it blew, but it’s just what I needed. I wasn’t going anywhere the way I was headed,”

“I gained a really bad reputation, we all did. We used to do stupid stuff. I mean we still do but we’re smarter about it. I just hate the way people saw me, and how they still see me,” he said.

Murphy explained that MYC really helped him get his life together. He said many of the teachers that had him in class at Park High probably remember him as someone who didn’t care. “I hated school. You couldn’t pay me to go back, but in hindsight I should have just paid attention.”
As we got deeper into our conversation he told me that he wished he would have just bucked up and got through high school but at the time there was no way he would’ve done it.

For Tim and kids like him, MYC offers an alternative option for your future when school doesn’t work for you. Most people think of the program as a boot camp, and in a way it is. In their own words MYC is “quasi-military,” meaning that even though it is militarily structured it is in no way part of the military.

Now this program is great and very useful for the kids that go to it, but it’s not without its shortcomings. As I said before this is an academy for at-risk youth. I heard many incriminating stories from the inside.

There are stories dating as far back as 2014 from previous attendees who talked about the fights, messing with college kids and an assortment of other shenanigans that you’d expect from teenagers living in a quasi military school for six months.

I think the general feeling about kids who go to the academy is a sense of awe and maybe a little fear from the kids here at Park High. The brave few that choose to set down the rougher road of MYC receive a different kind of respect. They are outlaws and rebels in their own right, few of which exist these days.

It may have its shortcomings but the young men and women that go there deserve just as much of a chance at setting themselves up for success as any of us traditional students, and not all minds can be touched by Park High. There are some that look through the public school system and seek a faster means of starting their lives, and in that search they find MYC.