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Ten hut! Military academy coming
School opening at Sharpe Depot for at-risk youths
The Sharpe Depot military-style school will be modeled after the Grizzly Youth Academy in San Luis Obispo. - photo by Photo Contributed

A military-style academy run by the National Guard and aimed at giving at-risk youths a chance of redemption will move ahead as planned at Sharpe Army Depot. 

On Friday after Congressman Jerry McNerney and California Assemblywoman Susan Eggman took a tour of the facility with representatives from the National Guard it was announced that an agreement had been made that will utilize the nearly abandoned complex on Roth Road as its home. 

According to the press release issued by McNerney’s office, negotiations had reached somewhat of a stalemate centered on whether the institute could purchase the buildings from the federal government and the rules surrounding that. 

“The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe program opens new doors for at-risk youth in San Joaquin County who want to work hard and invest in a brighter future, and I am glad to see that the program will now go forward,” McNerney said in a statement released Friday. “This program has a proven track record for turning participants into productive members of their communities by giving them the tools and skills they need to go onto college, find meaningful employment, and achieve success.”

The National Guard Youth ChalleNGe program focuses on reaching teenagers who have dropped out of high school and gives them the opportunity to build life skills and continue their education in order to turn their lives around. Those who participate live on base – in this case the former Sharpe Army Depot in Lathrop – for six months before returning home to take part in a 12-month mentoring program. Roughly 100 participants are enrolled in every class, and more than 121,000 people have graduated from the program since it was formed in 1993. 

The idea for the school was introduced when Stockton Assemblywoman Susan Eggman authored a bill calling for its establishment. She secured $1.5 million in the state budget, and the bill was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year. McNerney became a backer for the project when he helped secure $10 million in federal funding, and used his position as a Congressman to write a letter to The Pentagon asking for their swift backing and push through. 

Eggman’s office did not release a statement. 

“The Youth Challenge education program for at-risk youths is truly life-changing, keeping troubled young adults from ending up behind bars and opening the doors of opportunity for the lives they want to lead. While there many helpful stakeholders, I want to particularly thank Representative Jerry McNerney for his work to secure a third Youth Challenge location for the California National Guard, in Stockton,” Major General David S. Baldwin, the Adjunct General of California, wrote in a statement. “This would not have happened without the personal attention Representative McNerney paid to it.”

The facility known as Sharpe Army Depot – which for more than a decade was operated under the Department of Defense’s Defense Logistics Agency brand – was recently turned back over to the Department of the Army when the facility’s contract expired. 

All DLA operations were moved to the much larger facility in Tracy, although the regional distribution center for the US Army/Air Force Exchange Services was expected to continue operation. 

Currently California has two existing ChalleNGe Academies – one in San Luis Obispo and the second is Los Alamitos, making the Lathrop site the first in Northern California.