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Washington Youth Academy accepting applications for 2021

Washington Youth Academy accepting applications for 2021

In 2011, Devonte Blossomgame was on the fast track to failure. There was no way he was going to graduate on time. He was belligerent with his family and he was about to give up – until he decided he wanted to change.

After 22 weeks at the Washington Youth Academy and a year of mentoring back home, Blossomgame thrived. Today, he’s a minister at True Vine Community Church of God in Christ and he credits his success to his faith and the teachers and staff at the Washington Youth Academy.

“Life has given us the worst of times,” Blossomgame said. “We have seen it with our own eyes, felt it with our own hearts and remember it with our own minds. We have seen people count us out and thought there wouldn’t be a positive out of this. But at the end of the day, when we graduated, we felt like we accomplished something. But I also overcame something, as well. To me, all of us have the tenacity of a finisher. To give up is such an easy thing to do. But finishing takes the most strength – finish through all the doubts and all the disappointments.”

Blossomgame is just one of the many, many success stories at the Washington Youth Academy, which has graduated more than 2,900 cadets since 2009.

The Youth Academy is part of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program. Cadets can recover up to 8.0 credits (approximately 1.3 years of high school credits) while living on campus at the Academy in Bremerton. The program incorporates a highly-structured format, with an emphasis on student discipline and personal responsibility to provide a positive, safe and secure learning environment. Two classes are offered each year, one in January and one in July. Enrollment is through a competitive application process.

The school in 2020 looked a little different with cadets sent home in March and completing the program online from their homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But following strict safety and health protocols, the Washington Youth Academy is accepting applications and preparing for in-person instruction on campus starting in January.

The Youth Academy has successfully managed cadet health, developing, training and implementing as required contagious disease and pandemic protocols over its 11-year history and is well prepared for these unprecedented times.

Academy staff have been working with state and local health officials on a plan to resume operations, which will include regular COVID-19 testing, health screenings and temperature checks of all staff and the rare visitors allowed on campus. Cadets will be kept on campus during the 22 weeks with movement off campus restricted for their own health.

Physical barriers are installed in areas where social distancing isn’t possible. Staff and cadets will use masks and other personal protective equipment. And protocols are put in place so that commonly touched surfaces are disinfected frequently as well as changing the flow of staff access and movement across the facilities to reduce the risk of exposure.

Because of COVID-19 social distancing requirements, the number of cadets being allowed for our 21-1 class will be reduced considerably – which means if you are interested, you should apply now.

“Many potential candidates may be looking for a way to carve a path for themselves, separate from other demands in their lives, toward a direction they want for themselves to become men and women of power and influence in their families, communities and nation,” said Director Amy Steinhilber. “Apply to the WYA for a challenging and productive adventure toward the man or woman you want to become. Make your people proud. Be proud and happy with yourself.”

On campus open houses are not possible right now, but virtual information sessions are happening regularly for both cadets and their families, as well as educators.

Cadet Juarez in 2018.

Grace Juarez was a cadet at the Academy for the first half of 2018. After graduating, she says the program changed her life.

“I realize I am able to push myself and I am a lot more motivating than I thought I was,” she said. “It’s kind of like an adrenaline rush and I crave it now. I always like finding little things and thinking I can’t do it and doing it anyways. If my parents had let me come back home, I would be living with the biggest regret of my life. I wouldn’t be who I am today. And that’s scary for me to think about.”

For our 2019-2 class, the average number of credits earned by cadets who completed the program was 7.6. Those who completed the program had an average GPA for Academy courses of a B+, a remarkable achievement since almost 40 percent had an incoming grade point average of less than D. However, by session’s end, 96.3% of the completing cadets had a passing GPA (above 1.0).

“For so many people we have literally seen people’s lives change before our very eyes,” Blossomgame said. “For graduates, the question is, what’s next? Some of us have left and gone back to school, gotten a degree or a job. We have a career. We have families. We got our lives back together. We came with so many decisions to make but the first decision to make was I needed to change.”