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 percent in social benefits.* 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. By our Class of 2016-2, we had more than 2,000 graduates.

*Perez-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.

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 three-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 Washington Youth Academy is not. The Washington Youth Academy 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 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 or on the verge of dropping out, be between the ages of 16-18 (can be younger when an applicant applies, just must be 16 by the time school starts), a U.S. citizen and resident of Washington State. The applicant must never have been convicted of a felony and have no legal action pending. The applicant must be free of illegal drugs at the time of enrollment and physically and mentally able to complete the program. There is no cost to attend the WYA. The program is FREE to the applicant.

What is the staff composition?

The Academy staff are state employees of the Washington Military Department plus a principal and six 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:

This is not a figurehead position. 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.

  • Cannot be a member of the student’s family (or live in the same household).

  • Must be at least 25 years old.

  • Must be of the same gender as the student.

  • Must agree to a background check.

  • Must attend a one-day training session.

  • Must sign a Mentoring Agreement, which requires weekly contact with the student.

Where is the WYA located?

The Academy is located at:

1207 Carver Street
Bremerton, WA 98312

Program overview

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. There are three platoons at the Academy. The day starts at 5 a.m. with scheduled training and structured time continuing until 9 p.m. 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-term, intermediate-term and long-term goals including a post-residential placement plan (i.e. school, job, military, etc.).

I have more questions....

First place to look is the parent handbook. (y en Español aqui). Before you call us, download this document and read the expectations of parents/guardians.

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