A YEAR HAS gone by since 145 students graduated from the strenuous five-month Washington Youth Academy program in Bremerton. No more cadence-calling, push-ups, wearing uniforms and early wake-up calls. Students settled back into their old lives, ready to apply what they learned at the program.

For some cadets, like Aimee Crigger, 19, it was easy to fall back into old, bad habits.

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“I went back to high school, which is where all my old friends were, and they kind of drove me down for a while,” Crigger says.

Crigger says she missed someone telling her what to do, and the structure the academy gave her for 22 weeks. When she returned to Central Valley High School in Spokane, she started to miss class and fall behind again.

Her mother had been surprised how much Aimee changed and matured during the Bremerton program. She began to worry it was all for nothing.

“Maybe a month and a half in, my mom made me realize,” Crigger says. “[She said] ‘This is what you’re doing now?’ It was a wake-up call — I needed to do better.”


Crigger took what she learned at the academy and applied that work ethic to completing almost a semester’s worth of makeup homework in a two-week period in order to graduate last spring.

Crigger is working a full-time job at Rosauers in Spokane. Inspired by family members’ service in the military, and her time at the academy, she says she hopes to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test and enlist in the Army.

Two more cycles of cadets have gone through the residential program and earned high school credits since Crigger graduated a year ago. The program continues to help lay the groundwork for putting students back on the right path, even when many return home to harder situations and experiences.

For some, it’s enough to see a way forward, but many still need to work hard to apply what they learned at the academy. As Crigger puts it: “They guided me, but now it’s my turn to do the rest.”