RANTOUL – Governor Pat Quinn today broke ground on a major construction project to modernize the Lincoln’s ChalleNGe Academy campus in Rantoul. The $32 million Illinois Jobs Now! capital investment will create hundreds of construction jobs building five new facilities on the campus, which supports the Illinois National Guard’s mission to serve at-risk youth. The project is part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to create jobs and drive Illinois’ economy forward.
“The Lincoln’s ChalleNGe Academy has a proven track record of helping at-risk youth begin their path toward success,” Governor Quinn said. “This monumental project will modernize the academy and make sure these young people are being educated in state-of-the-art classrooms that give them the tools they need to succeed.”
The approximately 147,000-square-foot project includes construction of five new buildings to replace existing World War II-era structures. The construction will include a two-story educational facility to house classrooms, computer labs, a conference room, library and more. The additional facilities include a multiple-use auditorium and athletic facility, a dining facility, a maintenance garage and a dormitory. The project will seek Silver Certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), which represents a high degree of energy efficiency and minimal environmental impact.
"Lincoln's ChalleNGe, an Illinois National Guard-sponsored program specifically designed to educate young men and women ages 16 to 18 who have dropped out of high school, has assisted 14,000 students since 1993, positioning them to make positive contributions to their neighborhoods, communities and our nation," Brig. Gen. Daniel Krumrei said, the Adjutant General of the Illinois National Guard. "This new facility, funded by the state of Illinois, is a great investment in the lives of future leaders."
“The Lincoln’s ChalleNGe upgrade will put people to work improving a facility that turns young lives around,” Illinois Capital Development Board (CDB) Director Jim Underwood said. “CDB is proud to manage this project that has so many short and long-term benefits for Illinois.”
Lincoln’s ChalleNGe is structured into a 22-week residential phase conducted in a quasi-military environment. This phase is followed by a 12-month post-resident phase where graduates return to their communities and are paired with mentors who provide positive support. This phase also reinforces the life skills learned in residence. Illinois operates the largest single site Youth Challenge Academy in the nation. Lincoln’s ChalleNGe has 140 employees that assist Illinois’ at-risk youth by providing them with the education and life skills necessary to be successful in today’s society.
Education is one of the core objectives of the program. Approximately 75 percent of Academy graduates earn their GED, as compared to the state average pass rate of 53 percent. Lincoln’s ChalleNGge graduates return to their communities and demonstrate the success of this “second chance” program. After returning to their communities, 49 percent of graduates find jobs; 34 percent enroll in college; and 12 percent pursue military careers.
Construction will be completed in July 2016. The project will be managed by the Illinois Capital Development Board.