I was recently asked to ride along with a friend drop her daughter off to attend the National Guard Youth Challenge Academy. This is what I have learned from my friend about her experience: If you have a troubled teen and don't know what the next step is, you may have come across an article that will change your life and your teen's life.

The National Guard operates 27 Challenge Academies in the US. They are all free, and are for kids who have dropped out of school.

They usually don't accept kids with serious addictions or histories of committing felonies, but if your teen is at risk for these issues, then the Academies might be just the right placement for them.

Go to the Challenge Academy website and use the drop-down menus to locate an academy near you. There are 27 of them, so you may have to travel to a neighboring state. But if your child is getting into bigger and bigger trouble, it is probably worth it.

Sell your teen on the benefits of attending the Challenge Academy. Do not hide the fact that it is militaristic, and that it is a boot camp- deceiving your child will not aid your troubled relationship, but you can choose to emphasize other aspects of the academy experience such as the 5.5 months that he will be spending away from home. Also appealing to teens is the $1000 college / vocational school scholarship that he or she will receive for completing the entire program- which includes a six month community service component, as well as regular contact with a mentor. Your teen will have to want to attend this Academy. Applicants have to fill out their own paperwork and demonstrate a willingness to attend.

Attend an open house and ask questions. Your teen will have to adhere to a very specific dress code for this event. If you do not follow the directions precisely, your teen will not be allowed to apply.

Collect all shot records and school records. This is very important. Be very truthful in the application. Do not lie on the application.

This experience could be the start of a whole new beginning. If your teen does attend the academy, you may want to have a friend or neutral relative ride along to drop off your child in order to defuse tension in the car.