What is the cost to attend Washington Youth Academy (WYA)?
The Washington Youth Academy, as part of the National Guard Youth Challenge Program, is operated through a Cooperative Agreement between the National Guard Bureau and Washington State. This means it is funded by Federal and State dollars making tuition absolutely free to eligible youth. This investment in our youth has a return of 166% in social benefits.1 The Youth Challenge Program was started in 1993 as a federal-state partnership to help high school dropouts improve their education level, life skills, and employment potential. The program, which is operated by the National Guard in partnership with state and local education agencies, has been extremely successful. The Washington Youth Academy welcomed its first class in January 2009.
How does the program operate?
Youth Challenge is a residential program that incorporates a highly structured quasi-military format emphasizing self discipline, personal responsibility, and positive motivation. Students, who are referred to as cadets while at the Academy, must meet military grooming standards, wear military type uniforms, and observe standard military customs and courtesies. Each class involves a 3-phase program that begins with a two week Acclimation phase where the goal is to identify those students that have the desire and discipline to complete the program. Students who successfully complete the Acclimation phase enter the 20 week Challenge phase where the emphasis is on the "Eight Core Component" curriculum. Cadets must show improvement in each component.
Eight Core Components
- Academic Excellence
- Leadership and Followership
- Life Coping Skills
- Job Skills
- Service to the Community
- Responsible Citizenship
- Health and Hygiene
- Physical Fitness
After completing the Challenge phase, students begin a 52 week Post-Residential phase where each student works with an adult role model in a one-on-one mentoring relationship. The adult mentor provides the student advice, guidance, and support to help him/her continue the positive successes and direction achieved during the Challenge phase.
It is also important to understand what the WYA is not. The WYA is not designed or intended to be a military academy; there is no military obligation or expectation for the students. Further, the WYA is not a juvenile detention center; it is not a drug or alcohol treatment center; it is not a professional child care service; and it is not a hospital, medical, or dental clinic. The Washington Youth Academy is an approved institution with credentialed teaching staff and trained professional support staff supporting the educational goals and priorities of the Governor and the citizens of the State of Washington.
What is the focus of the Academic Excellence component at WYA?
The academic focus at the Washington Youth Academy is three-fold:
- To increase students’ math and reading skills, as measured by the Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE).
- To provide the skills and knowledge for students to retrieve up to 8 high school credits.
- For some participants, to prepare them to test for the General Education Development (GED) credential.
During the Residential Phase, students may earn up to 8 high school credits in Social Studies, Science, Math, English, health/fitness, physical education, career technical education, computer skills, and community service. The Washington Youth Academy contracts with the Bremerton School District to provide these approved academic courses. Academic credits are issued at the end of the session when the cadet graduates from the program. There is no award of partial credit if the student withdraws from the program prior to completion of the Residential Phase. Credits earned are transcripted at the student’s next school.
Who is eligible to attend the WYA?
The program is voluntary and students from all over Washington State are eligible to apply and compete for admission. Students must be a high school dropout or expellee, age 16-18, a US citizen and resident of Washington State, never convicted of a felony and have no legal action pending, free of illegal drugs at time of enrollment, and physically and mentally able to complete the program. There is no cost to attend the WYA.
What is the basic curriculum?
There are eight core elements to the WYA curriculum: Academic Excellence, Leadership and Followership, Life Coping Skills, Job Skills, Service to the Community, Responsible Citizenship, Health and Hygiene, and Physical Fitness. The Bremerton School District is providing the credentialed academic staff (one principal and five teachers) to teach the core academic subjects. The other non-academic subjects will be taught by the Academy staff with occasional guest instructors from the Army and Air Guard, state and local government agencies, the business community, and the labor sector. Students who successfully complete the full 22 week program can earn 8 or more credits towards their high school diplomas.
What is the staff composition?
The Academy staff are state employees of the Washington Military Department plus a principal and five teachers under contract from the Bremerton School District. The staff is trained to work with at-risk youth in a residential setting and employs a “hands-off” approach that is tough and disciplined, yet caring and respectful.
How does the mentoring program work?
Each student who applies to the Academy must submit the name of an adult who will act as their mentor during the 22 week residential phase and the one year post-residential phase—basically an 18 month commitment. This is a mandatory requirement for admission and students cannot start the program until a mentor is identified and meets the following criteria: the mentor cannot be a member of the student’s family (or live in the same household), must be at least 21 years old, must be of the same gender as the student, must agree to a background check, must attend a one day training session, and must sign a Mentoring Agreement which requires weekly contact with the student. It is not a figurehead position and the mentor plays a critical role in the student’s short and long-term success in completing the Academy and moving on to become a responsible and productive citizen.
Where is the WYA located?
The Academy is located at:
1207 Carver Street
Bremerton, WA 98312
The admissions process includes a personal interview of the student and his/her parent(s) or guardian(s). In addition to the interview, there is a mandatory one-day orientation session; it’s important that everyone fully understand how the program operates. There are two classes per year, each 22 weeks long, starting in mid-January and mid-July. The program is tough and is conducted in a quasi-military format that emphasizes self-discipline, personal responsibility, and positive motivation. Students live in a dormitory setting as part of a 50 person platoon. The day starts at 5:00am with scheduled training and structured time continuing until 9:00pm; there is little free time and students learn to set their priorities, manage their time, and focus their attention. Prior to graduating, the students will develop short, intermediate, and long term goals, including a post-residential placement plan (i.e. school, job, military, etc.).
1Perez-Arce, Francisco; Constant, Louay; Loughran, David S; Karoly, Lynn A. Meeting the Challenge: The Economic Return on Investment in the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program. Rand Corporation, 2012.