Thurston County Students Graduate from Youth Academy



Submitted by The Washington Youth Academy

The Washington Youth Academy celebrated the graduation of nine students from the Thurston County area during commencement ceremonies on December 20.

The students who have completed the program include Olympia residents Noah Blocher, Kimberly Koda, Elizabeth Lorenzana, Zachary Morse, Christopher Smith, as well as Rochester students Joel Baker and Victor Barreto, Tumwater student Austin Lund and Steven Wengelewski of Yelm. These students were among 144 graduates, who will all return to high school to get their diploma or seek an alternative path to finish their high school education, such as a GED or by joining Running Start.

The class is the largest to graduate from the Youth Academy since welcoming its first class in January of 2009.

This year’s cadets donated more than 11,000 hours of service to the community with an estimated value of $273,000 to the community.

The mission of the Washington Youth Academy 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. The Washington Youth Academy is a division of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program. 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. The free program places cadets in a 22-week intensive residential phase. For the following year, the youth receives intense mentoring and placement follow-up. The school is in Bremerton, but anyone from around the state can apply.

A Test of Adult Basic Education found that cadet skill levels increased an average of 2.3 grade levels by the end of the 22-week program compared to when the cadets entered the program. Remarkably, 132 of the 144 cadets achieved the maximum eight credits students could receive from their stay at the academy. Only 29 of the cadets who entered the program had enough credits to be classified as seniors. Today, 108 graduates of the program have the credits needed to be classified as seniors.

“This journey is not about their past; it’s about their future,” Washington Youth Academy Larry Pierce said at graduation.

More than 1,300 students have gone through the program since its inception.

For more information, visit the new website.  Videos of cadet speeches and pictures available here.


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