The 2012 Crawford Prize Recipient
Lieutenant General John B. Conaway
It was a great honor for the National Recreation Foundation to present Lieutenant General John B. Conaway (U.S. Air Force, retired), former chief of the National Guard Bureau, with the 2012 Robert W. Crawford Achievement Prize. Through his involvement with the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program (NGYC), the Chi Chi Rodriquez Foundation, and the STARBASE Program, he has been pivotal in improving communities across the country.
General Conaway served in the military for over 37 years, starting his career in 1956 as a fighter pilot and culminating with his appointment as Chief of the National Guard Bureau. He has held positions within the Pentagon as a general officer, as well as in leadership positions in the West Virginia and Kentucky Air National Guard and Vice Chief, National Guard Bureau.
For 25 years, General Conaway was dedicated to the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program. Early on he recognized America's alarming high school dropout rate and understood how a lack of a high school education severely reduced a person's lifetime earning potential and their ability to be a productive, contributing member of society. Moreover, the lack of a high school education can be a sentence to a lifetime of under-employment, broken dreams and a continuing multi-generational cycle of poverty. Using his position as head of the National Guard Bureau, he creatively led the way in developing a program to combat this unnecessary and preventable issue. As such, the NGYC is a community-based program that works to intervene in and reclaim the lives of 16-18 year old high school dropouts, producing program graduates with the values, life skills, education, and self-discipline necessary to succeed as productive citizens. The pilot program began with 10 sites, and has subsequently grown to 34 programs in 27 states. Over 110,000 at-risk high school dropouts have graduated the programs with 54% of them continuing on to receive their high school diploma, general equivalency degree, or adult high school degree.
The program includes eight core components -- Academic Excellence, Physical Fitness, Job Skills, Service to the Community, Health and Hygiene, Responsible Citizenship, Leadership/Followership, and Life-coping skills -- through an intervention framework that employs a quasi-military structure. The program has a 22-week residential phase followed by 12 months of mentorship. The NGYC program has been recognized as one of the most effective and cost efficient programs for targeting at-risk youth who are likely to face issues related to substance abuse, teen pregnancy, delinquency, and criminal activity. The Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation found that the NGYC has significant positive impact on the educational attainment, employment and income earning potential of former high school dropouts. It also found the program profoundly affects participants' self-esteem and progress to adulthood. Moreover, a recent RAND Corporation cost-benefit analysis of the program found benefits of $2.66 for every dollar expended on the program for a return on investment of 166%.
As a founder, original Board Member, and current Chairman of the National Guard Youth Foundation (NGYF), a 501(c)(3) that supports the NGYC Program, General Conaway has played an important role in building community support for the program and raising awareness of the program among decision-makers and corporate entities such as Microsoft, BAE, Wal-Mart, Dollar General, and Merrill Lynch. The NGYF provides the NGYC with scholarships, training and workforce transition assistance to graduates, while also increasing the visibility of the program and advocating for program goals. With his help, the NGYF has been able to donate more than two million dollars in scholarships to graduates of the program. Additionally, General Conaway established the Bo Conaway Scholarship in honor of his grandson, through which he provides financial assistance to select graduates of the program so that they may have the opportunity to attend trade school.
In addition to his work with the NGYC, he has assisted the Chi Chi Rodriquez Foundation that serves underperforming and troubled youth. This organization strives to help children on a path to success by improving their self-esteem, character, work ethic, social adjustment and academic performance by using the golf course as a living classroom. It has been rated as one of the top schools for high school dropout prevention. Gereral Conaway's contributions to this program have helped the foundation transform hundreds of lives. He was also involved with the launch of the STARBASE Program, which takes a hands-on approach in engaging underserved and underprivileged elementary students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math in preparation for more innovative future generations. This is a Department of Defense program that operates in more than 60 locations with 65,000 students participating annually. Further, he sits on the Board of Directors for a number of academic, corporate, and non-profit organizations throughout the country, including the University of Evansville, Mountaintop Technology, the International Telemedicine Collaboratory, AFBA Life Insurance, EWAIIT, and serves as Chairman/CEO of Paratus Associates.
General Conaway has been a leader in the field in serving at-risk youth. His efforts have been instrumental in all the organizations he has worked with which has given thousands of children and young adults the opportunity to lead productive, meaningful lives. He has been a visionary and a life-changing advocate for people with at-risk backgrounds.