"Now that I look back, I appreciate everything that this program did for me. It gave me determination. It gave me hard work ethic. It also taught me respect."

He has been a mainstay of hip hop for the past few years. On Friday, March 15 Kevin Gates visited the Louisiana National Guard Youth Challenge Program at the Gillis W. Long Center in Carville outside of Baton Rouge. Kevin came not only as a guest speaker, but also as a former cadet. Gates attended the Youth Challenge Program in 2002 and was in 4th Platoon Wolfpack.

Upon arriving he shared a heartfelt reunion with his former cadre, Command Sergeant Major Dennis Sapp. He fondly spoke about his relationship with Sapp saying "You were hard on me, but you believed in me. Now that I look back, I appreciate everything that this program did for me. It gave me determination. It gave me hard work ethic. It also taught me respect."

Gates went on to address the cadets and discussed how his time in the program allowed him to develop. "YCP was one of the best life changing experiences for me. I really started to see myself develop. It took me away from the environment I was in and taught me teamwork and teambuilding skills. It taught me leadership skills and determination. With these skills there is nothing in life that you can't overcome."

He also applauded the cadets for having the drive to stay in the program and urged them to continue to build on the progress that they have made during their time. He went on to say "Un-catch yourself and do the right thing. You already took the first step by being in this program."

Following Gates' address to the cadets, he was presented with a YCP Leadership Coin by Colonel Michael Borrel, Director of Educational Programs Louisiana National Guard. "This coin is presented to someone who has done excellent in life and has given back and made an impact to the Youth Challenge Program." Gates went on to talk one-on-one with some of the cadets giving encouragement and positive messages.

The mission of the Louisiana National Guard Youth Challenge Program is to intervene in and reclaim the lives of 16-18 year-old adolescents, producing program graduates with the values, life skills, education, and self-discipline necessary in order to succeed as productive citizens. If you know someone who would benefit from the program, call 1-800-CAMP-KID or find them on Facebook at: Louisiana National Guard Youth Challenge Program. The YCP is a free program.

Contributed by Louisiana National Guard Youth Challenge Program