Two teenagers from Whidbey Island were among 149 cadets who graduated from the Washington Youth Academy on Dec. 17.
The cadets included Spencer Aries of Freeland, a South Whidbey High School student, and Jonah Whitmarsh of Greenbank, a student at Coupeville High School.
Cadets from each corner of the state attended the free resident school geared toward instilling discipline in teens and helping those who have dropped out of high school or are at-risk of dropping out, a press release said. It also helps them recover credits so they can go back to high school to earn a diploma or identify an alternative path to finishing their high school education, such as a GED (general education development) or by joining Running Start.
With a graduation rate of 90.1 percent, Youth Academy Director Larry Pierce said in a press release that the class of “2016-2” had the best percentage to graduate from any class to date. Cadets can earn up to eight credits, which equals almost a year and a half of high school, in just 22 weeks. Aries and Whitmarsh’s cadet class earned an average of 7.8 credits.
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 said. “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.”
The overall 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. The academy is established under authority of both federal and state law.