Luis Camarena of Kenmore was among the 149 cadets who graduated from the Washington Youth Academy (WYA) on Dec. 17, which included the academy’s 2,000th cadet to complete the program.
Cadets from each corner of the state attend the free residential school geared at teaching teens discipline and helping them recover credits so they can go back to high school and earn a diploma or seek an alternative path to finish their high school education, such as a GED or by joining Running Start. Camarena will return to Inglemoor High School.
The WYA is a division of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program.
“This is the start, not the end,” Major General Bret Daugherty, the state’s adjutant general and commander of the Washington National Guard, told the cadets during commencement. “Not only have you made a commitment to improve your own lives, you have completed Community Emergency Response Team training while you were here at the youth academy. You came here focused on getting your own lives back on track, but leave here able to help and serve others. That is a huge change in your life, and we’re very proud of you for that.”
With a graduation rate of 90.1 percent, Youth Academy Director Larry Pierce said the Class of 2016-2 had the best percentage to graduate from any class to date. Cadets can earn up to eight credits – almost a year and a half of high school – in just 22 weeks. For 2016-2, the average number of credits earned was 7.8.
Cadets also completed 8,181 hours of community service helping to clean a Sept. 11, 2001 memorial, tending to park trails, tutoring youth and donating blood to the American Red Cross.
“They’ve learned a lot of new things that have increased and bolstered their confidence, discipline and teamwork,” Pierce said. “And, of course, our cadets invest a significant amount of time, energy, effort and a wide range of emotion in the daily life of the academy. It’s not easy, and sometimes just coping with the challenges and the stresses is taxing enough, but the cadets, you overcame these challenges.”
The mission of the WYA is to provide a highly disciplined, safe and professional learning environment that empowers at-risk youth to improve their educational levels and employment potential and become responsible and productive citizens of the State of Washington. Established under authority of both federal and state law, the WYA is a state-run residential and post-residential intervention program for youth who have dropped out of high school or are at risk of dropping out.
A new class starts in January 2017, with a second class slated for July 2017. Learn more about the program online at mil.wa.gov/youth-academy, and hear from the cadets and commencement speakers, including Gov. Jay Inslee and Secretary of State Kim Wyman, on WYA’s YouTube Channel.
This is taken from a Washington Youth Academy press release.