Three teens from Renton were among the 149 cadets who graduated from the Washington Youth Academy on Dec. 17, which included the Academy’s 2,000th cadet to complete the program.
Cadets from each corner of the state attend this free residential school that is 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 joining Running Start. The Washington Youth Academy is a division of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program.
Juan Galvan Serrano will go back to the Secondary Learning Center, part of the Renton School District. Hunter Herr will go back to Kentridge High School and Mekiole Manaea will head back to Hazen High School.
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 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 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.”
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.