Cover: Goal-Setting to Support Cadet Success

Goal-Setting to Support Cadet Success

Insights and Recommendations for the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program

Published Dec 20, 2021

by Colleen Corte, Lisa Sontag-Padilla


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Research Questions

  1. How do different ChalleNGe sites implement the P-RAP process?
  2. What goal-setting practices are effective and supported by the literature?

The Post-Residential Action Plan (P-RAP) is a process used by the National Guard Youth Challenge (ChalleNGe) Program to assist at-risk youth ages 16 to 18 with identifying placement goals and developing a plan to achieve them based on where cadets envision going in life after they complete the residential, quasi-military ChalleNGe Program.

ChalleNGe focuses on eight core components: academic excellence, health and hygiene, job skills, leadership and followership, life-coping skills, physical fitness, responsible citizenship, and service to community. A cadet's plan may focus on obtaining additional education or training, searching for and obtaining employment, joining the military, or some combination of these options. Youth in the ChalleNGe program may have struggled with academic, social, or behavioral problems prior to the program, and they may need enhanced support with goal-setting.

ChalleNGe has 40 sites across the United States and implementation of the P-RAP varies considerably across sites. The implementation and utility of the P-RAP has not yet been examined. The purpose of this project was to examine the various approaches to using the P-RAP across ChalleNGe sites, draw insights from the literature on best or promising practices for goal-setting in adolescence, and provide recommendations on the use of the P-RAP in the ChalleNGe program. The authors used three main methods to achieve these aims: literature review, examination of the P-RAP template, and conversations with staff at select sites to discuss implementation of the P-RAP.

Key Findings

The P-RAP process offers a way to support cadets in the identification and attainment of placement goals

  • Many aspects of the P-RAP process are well-grounded in goal-setting and adolescent development theory.
  • There is empirical evidence that the process is well-designed to assist youth in identifying highly personalized goals and developing action-oriented plans to assist young people in achieving their goals and successfully transitioning to adult roles.

There is considerable variation in implementation of the P-RAP process across sites

  • Some sites appear to follow the promising practices set out in the literature, such as ensuring adequate exploration of potential goals and formulating goals that are both specific and attainable.
  • Other sites appear to view the P-RAP process as less central to eventual success.


  • Encourage deep and consistent use of the P-RAP across the components of ChalleNGe.
  • Ensure adequate exploration and experiences to help cadets identify meaningful goals.
  • Help cadets outline goals that are specific, challenging, and attainable.
  • Incorporate goals that are oriented toward learning specific skills.

This research was sponsored by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs and conducted within the Forces and Resources Policy Center of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD).

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