An alternate route

Josh Voyles

HOUSTON – Josh Voyles of Houston made a life-changing choice when he dropped out of high school. He gave up the opportunity to graduate and pursue a higher education, but he got another chance through the C.O.P.E.S  and National Guard Youth ChalleNGe programs.

After his junior year at Houston High School, Voyles made the decision not to return.

“I was failing everything anyway,” Voyles said. “I just quit doing my school work.”

He came in contact with Donna Schomberg through a family member and she reached out a helping hand.

Schomberg is the director of the C.O.P.E.S. program, sponsored by the Houston Exchange Club. To further the national Exchange Club platform of the prevention of child abuse, Schomburg works with local at-risk children and youth in various ways to further their education and employment skills to become productive adults that can contribute to society.

Schomberg helped Voyles gain entry into the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe program in Hattiesburg where he was able to pass his GED test and earn his high school diploma.

But the program  wasn’t exactly a piece of cake.


Daily grind

After leaving Houston, home became a 40-man barracks at Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center.

“You get up about 5:45 in the morning, make your bed, get dressed, brush your teeth and shave, then if you have detail you clean the barracks,” Voyles said. “Then after breakfast, you’re in class by eight for an hour-and-a-half, take a break, back to class for an hour-and-a-half, lunch, then back to class.”

After the classwork was completed for the day, participants had plenty more to do.

“In the afternoon, you go to PT,” Voyles said. “It’s basically exercise, push-ups, jumping jacks, just whatever they want you to do.”

Students also had detail work around the camp.

“Then you go to supper, shower and go to bed,” Voyles smiled.

The classes in English, science, math and history are designed to help students pass the GED test. Voyles scored well on the predictor tests and passed his GED and earned his diploma then moved into job detail and shadowing to be exposed to different careers. Students are also required to perform 40 hours of community service, but since Voyles passed his test early in the 22-week program, he had plenty of time to fulfill his obligation.

“I had like 150 hours,” Voyles said.

He also found the structure of military life to his liking and has joined the National Guard. He will leave this week for Missouri for basic training and hopes to become a combat engineer.

After completing his basic training, he also plans to return to school at the post-secondary level and pursue a degree in engineering..

“I’ve got 15 hours of college credit (at William Cary) and they already gave me a $4,000 scholarship,” Voyles said. “The Guard will help pay for college once I’m out of basic.”

Voyles credits the structure, regimen and lack of distractions the ChalleNGe program offers for giving him another chance at his future.

“Every day you do the same thing at the same time,” Voyles said. “I don’t know why, but it worked.”


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