Leslie Smith


…it was exactly what I needed at that time in my life with exactly the right influences…

Class 3 (2007)

When I was in high school I started going down a path that went against my family’s beliefs and I made a lot of choices that were destructive instead of constructive. I was squandering the opportunities I was given in high school and damaging relationships constantly. My mom found the Youth ChalleNGe program, and I was accepted to attend. I was apprehensive at first, given the restrictions the program had, and the fact that I would be isolated from my friends and family for almost six months. While at Camp Guernsey, I was pushed way out of my comfort zone, but I excelled way farther than I thought possible. I learned so much about myself and what I wanted out of life. I started figuring out what kind of person I wanted to become, and that regardless of the life I had before, I realized could be anything I wanted to be. Since graduating from the program, I enlisted in the United States Navy, serving as a Chief Petty Officer doing Military Intelligence. I’ve done three combat deployments with Special Operations Forces. I have earned my Associates degree in Business Administration and currently work as a DoD Contractor for Naval Special Warfare. It’s been almost 13 years since I attended the Youth ChalleNGe program, and I still think it was one of the best things I could have ever done. I think it was exactly what I needed at that time in my life with exactly the right influences to help redirect my path. I’m forever grateful for the program and the staff who helped make me the person I am today.