The Belize Youth Challenge (BYC) is a revision and upgrade of the National Youth Cadet Service Corps (NYCSC) which was established on October 1st, 1999. Over the years, the Corps programme evolved to one that was managed by civilians with support from Belize Defence Force Volunteers and in November 2016, the NYCSC was transferred from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports to the Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation.
The Belize Youth Challenge is modelled off of a similarly successful Youth Challenge Programme run by the Louisiana National Guard in the USA and was established with their technical support. BYC is partnership between the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation.
The program is jointly managed by the Belize Defence Force and the Community Rehabilitation Department.
What is the Belize Youth Challenge?
The Belize Youth Challenge Program is an alternative boarding school for males 15-17 years who are at-risk of coming in contact with the law and/or have behavioural problems. The Program’s mission is “to intervene in and reclaim the lives of at-risk youth to produce program graduates with the values, skills, education and self-discipline necessary to succeed as adults.”
BYC uses military principles to teach youths discipline, personal administration and teamwork, while developing their skills in vocational and academic areas. It encourages adolescents to be responsible, patriotic and productive citizens of Belize. The Challenge has two phases: Residential and Post-Residential.
The residential phase of the Belize Youth Challenge has two “terms” and runs from August to June. During this time, youths live on campus at the training grounds at Mile 21 George Price Highway.
1st Term – August to December
The focus is on getting the youths used to their new surroundings and schedule, as well as the rules and expectations of the programme.
Term 2 – January to June
Focuses on creating the cadet’s life plan, job skills and preparing them for transition back to their communities.
Post Residential Phase
Before graduating from the residential phase, youths will decide on goals they’d like to achieve (e.g. continue their education, get a job) and work along with a social worker to create a plan.
Upon returning home, the Cadet will implement his plan with support from his family, mentor and social worker. This phase lasts 12 months or longer, depending on the progress of the youth in fulfilling his plan.
Pre-screening (2 weeks)—interviews, assessments, orientation
Adjustment Period (3 weeks)—getting used to life on campus. Youths who pass this phase become Cadets.
Christmas Home Leave—Approx. 2 weeks
Weekend Home Pass— Cadets get a 2-day pass in 2nd term where they can visit home.
Easter Home Leave—Approximately 1 week
Family Day Event – Relatives can visit the Cadets for a fun day in the 2nd term
Passing Out (June)— graduation ceremony for cadets who successfully completed the programme.