WASHINGTON, DC, (March 3, 2011) â€“ Christian music recording artist Kenny Bishop recently performed in Washington, DC for the National Guard Youth Foundationâ€™s (NGYF) Sixth Annual ChalleNGe Champions Gala. The event was held at the JW Marriott Hotel and is organized each year to raise funds and awareness for the program that provides education, support and guidance for troubled and at-risk teenagers in their home states.
â€œThis was my introduction to the program,â€ Bishop said. â€œI thought I was prepared to go up there, do my part, appreciate the cause and go home. But Iâ€™ve fallen in love with these cadets, their stories and their resolve to succeed in life when everything in their world is fighting hard against it.â€
Bishop joined â€œAmerican Idolâ€ winner Kris Allen, singer/actor Tyler Hilton, actress Karri Turner, singers Gretchen Wilson and Laura Bryna, â€œApprentice IIâ€ winner Kelly Purdew, NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr., NASCAR owner Rick Hendrick, Indy car drivers JR Hildebrand and Martin Plowman, John Barnes of Panther Racing, Miss Indiana Nicole Pollard and WWE wrestlers Sgt. Slaughter and Kofi Kingston to help raise over $3 million for the program.
â€œThe highlight of my ChalleNGe experience was working with cadets Janette Garcia-Garay from California and Eric Rivera from Alaska,â€ Bishop said. â€œWe had two days to put together a mash-up. When show time arrived and the lights came up, these kids took to the stage and just blew us away. The crowd fell in love and I felt like a very, very proud dad.â€
Besides the entertainers, several stateâ€™s governors and adjutant generals, U.S. Representatives and Senators, Pentagon and White House officials, military generals and corporate leaders were in attendance.
â€œWith all of the celebrity and power in that room, it was still the cadets who stood tallest,â€ Bishop said. â€œTheir stories all started with disappointment and heart break, but thanks to the ChalleNGe program, theyâ€™re finding hope and promise for more successful and happier endings.â€
The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program is a 17-month voluntary program with a 5.5-month residential phase and 12-month mentoring phase. There are 33 program sites in 27 states and Puerto Rico. Since its inception in 1993, more than 100,000 students have graduated from the Program.
â€œWhile there are many good programs that help prevent kids from dropping out of school, there are few, if any, that help them once theyâ€™ve dropped out. The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program offers a future of promise to those who have the will and desire to pursue it. The Program is a â€˜hand up,â€™ not a â€˜hand out,â€™ that provides youths with the tools, support and knowledge they need to start believing in themselves again. Weâ€™ve lost so many to this national epidemic and the Youth ChalleNGe Program is putting a stop to that trend.â€
-U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu
â€œBecause of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program, every one of our cadets has earned something they never thought they would have â€” a future. Perhaps most important, they will not be counted among the 33 million young men and women without a high school degree in this country. The Gala was a great opportunity to celebrate the Youth ChalleNGe Program and its fundamental role in creating better lives and communities.â€
-General Craig R. McKinley, chief, National Guard Bureau
â€œThe ChalleNGe Champions Gala is always a special night â€” one that gives the National Guard Youth Foundation the opportunity to raise awareness of the drop out problem, and the tremendous impact the National Guard is having through the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program. In addition to the human cost, the failure to educate 1/3 of our kids is an economic crisis and it is a national security crisis. Youth ChalleNGe gives these young men and women, like our 100,000th cadet graduate representative, Tori Walston, a second chance. It is transforming lives and making a difference.â€
– Gail Dady, president of the National Guard Youth Foundation Board of Directors
About the National Guard Youth Foundation The National Guard Youth Foundation is a non-profit 501(c) (3) whose mission is to support the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program in its efforts to raise awareness of the growing high school dropout crisis in the nation and its impact on the economy and national security. The National Guard Youth Foundation provides the ChalleNGe Program with scholarships, training and workforce transition assistance to graduates, while also increasing the visibility of the program and advocating for program goals and funding. In cooperation with the ChalleNGe Program, the National Guard Youth Foundation assists youths who drop out of secondary school to improve their life skills, education and employability, creating the next generation of skilled workforce in America. For more information about the National Guard Youth Foundation, please visit www.ngyf.org.