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Lincoln’s Challenge Students Graduating this Weekend


Saturday is graduation day for the cadets in the Rantoul-based Lincoln's Challenge program.

The program's Director, Peter Thomas, said the 340 at-risk youth started out as high school dropouts from all over Illinois who needed a structured environment to get back on course. They have received training in everything from physical fitness to life-coping skills, having performed at least 40 hours of community service, and taken daily classes in preparation for GED testing.

"What this type of environment does for a young man or a young lady is strengthen them in ways that they can reach out and touch the community that they came from," Thomas said. "They can go out and get jobs; they can go out and give back to the community from which they came. In other words, when an individual leaves here, he or she leaves here as a well-rounded individual.

Thomas said nearly a third of Lincoln's Challenge graduates go into the military, with the rest going on to college or directly into the job market. He said he expects as many as 5,500 family members and others to attend the graduation ceremony. State Senator James Clayborne (D-Belleville) will be the speaker at tomorrow's Lincoln's Challenge commencement ceremony.

The ceremony begins at 11 am at Springfield's Prairie Capital Convention Center. Lincoln's Challenge is part of the National Guard's Youth Challenge program, operating in 29 states and Puerto Rico.