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Grizzly Youth Academy reaches out

By Miriam G. Mazliach

October 15, 2013

Sometimes students can use a helping hand and need options outside of the traditional school system route. Thatís exactly the reason that 20 years ago, the National Guard established the Grizzly Youth Academy Challenge Program, to reach at-risk or struggling kids, and help them succeed in a disciplined and supportive environment.

The five month residential charter high school program is geared for youths, both boys and girls, between the ages of 16 through 18. The nearest academy is located at San Luis Obispo and another is in San Diego.

Students apply to the program for a variety of reasons such as: being behind in credits, dropping out, at risk of dropping out, not succeeding at their traditional school site, or having been truant or expelled. By enrolling they have the opportunity to earn up to 55 credits toward a high school diploma.

Run military style, itís basically a supervised 5 month boot camp, where self-esteem and leadership qualities are instilled. Most importantly, kids have to voluntarily want to go; free scholarships are available but occasionally there is a waiting list. Sessions run from January to July and July to December.

After applying, students choose a mentor, an adult who will provide ongoing advice and support to help them succeed and complete their credits.

Lourdes Colon, AAUW (American Association of University Women) member, and Grizzly Youth Academy Chapter President, is passionate when speaking about the program. She currently serves as a mentor to one of the attendees. Mentors have to willing to be committed to the student, providing encouragement and help as needed throughout the process and for a period beyond. Mentors sign on for 18 months of responsibility and follow up, must be fingerprinted and go through a background check.

ďThe program has a military structure, but itís directed to minors. It works well for them and the boys and girls are housed separately,Ē says Colon. Her nephew is planning to attend, hopefully in the next session.

Once accepted, students create an action plan to help them achieve their goals, even beyond graduation. Classes are held Monday through Thursday, with fieldtrips on Fridays, volunteer activities in the community on Saturdays, and Sundays reserved as a personal day. Teachers work closely with the students, assisting them in their specific areas of need or with learning issues.

After completion of the five month program, students can go back and graduate with their original school if they so choose. College scholarship help and assistance is also provided. Hopefully, the students have learned to make better decisions and developed the ability to make positive choices in their lives.

Parents and students, who are interested in finding out more about the Grizzly Youth Academy, are invited to attend a free informational evening program.

Grizzly Youth Academy presentation
Wednesday, October 23
6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Unitek College
4670 Auto Mall Parkway, Fremont
Info: Lourdes Colon (510) 677-2940

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