In the news: Sunburst Youth Academy cadets keeps shining amid pandemic

A Spectrum News 1 crew recently paid a visit to Sunburst Youth Academy to highlight the many ways the military-style academic program is changing lives.

As we’ve previously mentioned, Sunburst Youth Academy is a community high school for at-risk youth that’s operated by the California National Guard in partnership with OCDE. Students – or cadets – who attend the five-and-a-half-month program can earn high school credits while developing leadership, pride, confidence and academic skills.

Spectrum News at Sunburst Youth Academy
Spectrum News 1 Reporter Zack Tawatari interviews cadets at Sunburst Youth Academy.

With an 87 percent success rate, Sunburst changes the lives of over 200 students every year. But Admissions Coordinator Sergeant Ryan Salvoni told Spectrum News that due to the pandemic, their ability to recruit has dwindled, with the program down to just over 100 cadets.

“Definitely COVID has thrown a loop into how we are able to go out and reach families and communicate with the students who may have an interest in attending the academy,” said Salvoni.

Still, amidst challenges created by the pandemic, Sunburst cadets manage to shine and persevere due to the one thing they all have in common – a desire to make a positive change.

“We’ve all decided to do certain things for certain reasons,” said Dominic Ferrell, a Sunburst Academy cadet. “Some of us couldn’t really choose. It was just that’s how life gave it to us. But this program has definitely changed us a lot. It’s taught us how to teach ourselves discipline, how to show integrity.”

The entire Sunburst Academy feature can be viewed on the Spectrum News 1 website.

To learn more about the process for referring a student from your district, or for additional information, please visit the Sunburst Youth Academy website.