Idaho budget writers approve startup funding for Pierce youth program

Idaho legislative budget writers have approved startup funding for the National Guard Youth Challenge Program in Pierce.

The $1.39 million measure was passed by the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

While it still has to be approved by the full House and Senate, the JFAC vote was considered the last major hurdle for the quasi-military style program that aims to help Idaho dropouts earn their high school diplomas and get their lives back on track. The program, geared towards 16-to-18 year-olds, includes a 22-week residential component, followed by a 12-month mentorship.

The startup funding includes $970,000 in private donations, plus $422,000 in federal dollars to cover the cost of the modular housing units needed to accommodate up to 120 students, pay for renovation of the old Pierce school, and provide salaries for the first five permanent employees.

The ongoing operating funds and remaining employees will be included in the fiscal 2014 budget, which the committee will take up in March.

Meanwhile, Derek Newland has been named the first Youth Challenge director. The Idaho native has been a member of the National Guard for 28 years.

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