Members of the ninth class of Sunburst Youth Academy whooped and hollered their way through a graduation ceremony that would look familiar to most any high school graduate.
The Academy is part of National Guard Youth ChalleNGe, a community-based program that leads, trains and mentors at-risk youth. Youth ChalleNGe is recognized as an effective and cost efficient program for targeting youth who are at the greatest risk for substance abuse, teen pregnancy, delinquency, and criminal activity.
Sunburst is a star among the 33 Youth ChalleNGe sites in 27 states and the territory of Puerto Rico. The next closest Youth ChalleNGe facility is Grizzly Academy near San Louis Obispo.
Admittedly, there were some differences between Sunburst Academy graduating cadets and an ordinary high school’s graduating class.
The cadets all wore gray uniforms bedecked with patches and achievement ribbons. Hair was severely short (for the males) or tied up and away (for the females). Everybody wore army boots, black and shiny.
But the tears and crooked smiles and proud families were the same.
The three platoons of approximately 50 cadets each marched into the auditorium at Cottonwood Christian Church after their families had already found seats.
A precision cadet color guard posted colors after Cadet Fisher sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Notable among the speakers was Congresswoman Grace Napolitano (D-CA38), a long-time supporter of the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe program.
Thirty-nine of the cadets fulfilled the requirements to graduate from high school or receive a GED. Those cadets were honored with caps and gowns and their own mini-march. Graduating with them were a handful of members of previous Sunburst Youth Academy classes who had returned to their high school to complete graduation requirements, then chose to graduate with fellow Sunburst cadets.
The balance of the cadet corps will return to their families and high schools, but not alone. Each cadet will have a Sunburst mentor committed to supporting the cadet in the year-long post-residential phase.
Congratulations, graduates of Class Nine!
Class Nine Scholarships
Thanks to the generosity of local supporters, Sunburst Youth Academy is able to award scholarships to outstanding members of each class.
New award to this class is a summer residency program at the University of Southern California (USC). Sunburst students participating will have the opportunity to live and study on the USC campus and experience all facets of college life. Cadets will receive assistance in defining their goals and developing educational plans to achieve them. They will attend courses on various topics that will help enrich their academic skills for high school and college success.
Scholarships were awarded to the following cadets:
- Antonio Patricio, from EADS North America in the amount of $1,000
- Milton Newman, from Microsoft Corporaiton in the amount of $1,000
- Henry Merino, from Tri West Healthcare in the amount of $1,000
- Erika Eloisa, from National Guard Youth Foundation in the amount of $1,000
- From Sunburst Youth Academy:
- Jesse Hernandez, in the amount of $1,000
- Dominique Esquivel, in the amount of $1,000
- Patrick Savoy, in the amount of $1,000
- Daniel Rudat, in the amount of $1,000
- Joseph Rosales, in the amount of $1,000
- Christian Anderson, in the amount of $1,000
- Brandon Diaz, in the amount of $1,000
- Elizabeth Mendiola, in the amount of $1,000
- Edwin Paz-Ortiz, in the amount of $1,000
- Markel Kidd, in the amount of $1,000
- Miya Causey, in the amount of $1,000
- From USC Summer Residential Program 2012:
- Asia Ngo, in the amount of $1,725
- Anthony Torres, in the amount of $1,725
- David Scheu, in the amount of $1,725
- Alfonso Campos, in the amount of $1,725
A cadet member of Platoon 2 Chargers watches fellow cadets march in to receive their high school diploma at the graduation ceremony for Class 9 of Sunburst Youth Academy on Saturday, June 9.
- Sunburst Youth Academy classroom ribbon-cutting this morning (oc-breeze.com)
- Sunburst Youth Academy to graduate class 9 (oc-breeze.com)
- Sunburst galore and job core (oc-breeze.com)
- Ten-mile beach run (oc-breeze.com)