The Cascades Job Corps College and Career Academy is eliminating certain admission requirements, a move the academy hopes will allow it to serve a more diverse population.

The academy will no longer require incoming students to meet eighth-grade reading and math standards, Darrel Lutton, the academy’s director since May, said Sept. 19 at a luncheon at the academy.

Job Corps is a federally funded tuition-free program for low-income youths who face barriers to education and employment.

Other changes include opening enrollment to young those ages 16-24, and eliminating the lottery system to participate in the program, Lutton said. The changes reflect a shift from a pilot program that began in 2017 with six students to a more traditional model of Job Corps programs nationwide.

“We are expanding the students we can take,” Lutton said.

As part of the program, students live at the academy and can take classes on campus, at the Northwest Career & Technical Academy, and at Skagit Valley College. Students can choose career pathways in either health care or information technology.

Lutton said the academy is exploring options to add other pathways.

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The academy has grown to 237 students and is on track to reach full capacity at 300, he said.

“The pilot (program) has been very successful,” he said.

Students who began in the pilot program will continue to receive full pilot services through June 2022, Lutton said.

Lilly Quick, a Job Corps student in the health care pathway, is starting at Skagit Valley College next week. She said she plans to become a certified medical assistant, then move on to get a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

She said that until she enrolled in Job Corps she viewed grades and money as barriers to attending college.

“It’s been a really amazing opportunity for me,” she said.

Macklin Hamilton, the academy’s business and community liaison, said the academy is looking to partner with businesses and organizations both locally and throughout the state who can provide work-based learning and internships for students and job opportunities for graduates.