Patriot Academy Student-Soldiers Earn Diplomas
(March 24, 2010)
MUSCATATUCK URBAN TRAINING CENTER, Ind., March 19, 2010 –
Patriot Academy, the military's first accredited high
school, graduated its first class here yesterday.
The program provides youth with an opportunity to earn their
high school diploma, join the Army National Guard and
contribute to their community.
|Army Pfc. Scott Mix
proudly holds his newly earned high school
diploma with smiling family members at the
Patriot Academy's first graduation ceremony at
the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in
Butlerville, Ind., March 18, 2010. Wayne decided
to join the Patriot Academy to earn his diploma
and serve his country. The Patriot Academy is
the U.S. military's first accredited high
After a year of planning, the vision of retired Army Lt.
Gen. Clyde Vaughn, former director of the Army National
Guard, to turn high school dropouts into student-soldiers
became reality in June with the funding and support of the
National Guard Bureau.
“This is about the young men and women who will have a
second chance,” said Army Maj. Gen. Raymond Carpenter,
acting director of the Army National Guard, on the program's
opening day in August. “Our mission at the Patriot Academy,
very simply, is to educate and train these young men to
become the best citizen-soldiers in the Army National
Students of the Patriot Academy come here after completing
Army basic training. They continue to collect active-duty
pay, taking classes to earn their high school diploma, while
simultaneously honing their military skills before
graduating and shipping out to learn their military job.
“It's really a good opportunity,” said Army Sgt. 1st Class
William Long, an instructor and assistant platoon sergeant.
“The average National Guard soldier drills one weekend a
month, two weeks a year. These guys do almost a year of
active duty before they meet their unit. These guys are
going to have a better head start to that.”
Additionally, the course is designed to prepare the
student-soldiers to contribute to society.
“There were three objectives when they came here,” said
Patriot Academy Commandant Army Col. Perry Sarver. “First
one, of course, was to get their high school diploma. Second
was to expand on their military skills that they learned in
basic training, and finally, they provide eight hours of
community service in and around the Jennings County area.”
The program was implemented during a “dropout crisis” in
America, as over 1.2 million students, equating to 7,000 per
school day, either drop out or do not earn their high school
diploma, according to the Alliance for Excellent Education.
“There's hundreds of thousands of young men and women who
have not achieved their high school diploma, and the Army
National Guard provides these young men and women an
opportunity to do that,” Sarver said.
Today's graduating class consisted of 38 of the original 47
student-soldiers from 16 states who started the course. They
will return to their respective states' National Guard after
receiving military occupational training.
Plans are under
way for the program's growth. “We are trying to diversify
our next class,” Sarver said. “What we want to do is grow
our enrollment from 47 from this past year to try to
graduate 300 men and women from the 54 states and
|The Patriot Academy's
first graduating class marches away with newly
earned high school diplomas in hand, March 18,
2010, during their graduation ceremony held at
the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in
Butlerville, Ind. The Patriot Academy is the
first accredited military high school in U.S.
history. The program was designed to combat the
nation's dropout rates and to give troubled
youth a second chance.
The graduates' families, command sergeants major and
recruiters attended the graduation ceremony to show their
support. The class valedictorian said his newly earned high
school diploma was a new beginning for him.
“It's a great opportunity to be here,” said Pvt. Mario
Guillen of the Texas Army National Guard. “I hope to make
the best of it. Before I came into the Patriot Academy, I
worked for a low salary. [The course] has changed my life. I
can pass the obstacles that I have in front of me. Now I
have a better view of my future because of the education I
got here.” Guillen will move on to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.,
to for truck driver training.
Fellow student Pfc. Scott Mix of Fort Wayne, Ind., said he
came to the program to better himself by getting his high
school diploma to expand his opportunities and horizons.
“It's been an adventure,” he said. “A lot of military
training and a lot of schooling and [physical training], but
it was definitely worth it.”
Mix said he did not have enough credits to graduate from
high school with his class, and wanted to earn more than a
general education diploma. He went to an Army National Guard
recruiter and joined the Patriot Academy at age 18.
“I definitely grew up a lot,” he said. “My maturity level
has increased an awful lot. I was getting into a lot of
trouble, and I wasn't staying focused. Since I came here,
everything is more straight-edged and disciplined.
Everything is always business. My whole mentality has
changed. I'm definitely a lot more focused now.”
Mix's mother said she couldn't agree more.
“He is a lot more disciplined,” Christa Wilfong said. “I've
noticed he has a lot more respect for others. He seems to
really be looking toward the future instead of just living
for the day. He is setting a lot more goals.”
As the first graduating class packs its bags, including
their newly achieved high school diplomas, the instructors,
commanders and creators of the Patriot Academy stay
committed to taking lost or misguided potential and molding
it into positive contributions to society.
“They get a chance for a do-over,” Sarver said. “Society has
given up on some of these young people for whatever reason,
and they were led to believe that they would never achieve
their high school diploma.
“When they first came in, back in June and July, they were
lacking the focus,” he continued. “They were lacking the
confidence. When they leave here they believe they can
accomplish anything in their lives. When they leave here,
they will be a more mature adult to assume their role in
society as they get back home.”
Article and photos by John Crosby
Camp Atterbury Public Affairs
American Forces Press Service
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