Submitted by Washington Youth Academy

Six teens from Thurston County were among the 149 cadets who graduated from the Washington Youth Academy on December 17 which included the Academy’s 2000th cadet to complete the program.

Cadets from each corner of the state attend the free residential school in Bremerton 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. The Washington Youth Academy is a division of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program.

Patrick Burgman of Olympia (left) works with Eros Gonzales of Lynden and Raymond Saechao of Vancouver on a robotics project at the Washington Youth Academy. Photo courtesy: Washington Youth Academy.
Patrick Burgman of Olympia (left) works with Eros Gonzales of Lynden and Raymond Saechao of Vancouver on a robotics project at the Washington Youth Academy. Photo courtesy: Washington Youth Academy.

Cadets included Olympia residents Patrick Burgman, who goes back to Timberline High School; Savannah Danforth, attending Capital High School; Zulfikar Mohammed, attending River Ridge High School; William Roberts, attending Olympia High School; as well as Kiev Wilson of Lacey attending Timberline High School; and Julius Sword of Rochester, who goes back to Rochester High School

“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.”

Washington Youth Academy
Kiev Wilson of Lacey shakes hands with Secretary of State Kim Wyman. Photo courtesy: Washington Youth Academy

With a graduation rate of 90.1 percent, Youth Academy Director Larry Pierce says the Class of 2016-2 had the best percentage to graduate from any class to date. Cadets can earn up to 8 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 September 11, 2001 memorial, tending to park trails, tutoring youth and donating blood to the Red Cross.

“They’ve learned a lot of new things that have increased and bolstered their confidence, discipline and teamwork,” Pierce says. “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.”

Washington Youth Academy
Savannah Danforth of Olympia smiles as she waits for commencement ceremonies to begin. Photo courtesy: Washington Youth Academy.

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. 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.

New classes start in January 2017 with a second class slated for July 2017.  Learn more about the program online and hear from the cadets and our commencement speakers, including Gov. Jay Inslee and Secretary of State Kim Wyman, on our YouTube Channel.

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