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Alaska Military Youth Academy graduates 60th class

The Alaska Military Youth Academy, or AMYA, is a nearly 30 year old program where some struggling Alaska high school teenagers can turn their lives around.

Its most recent class graduated on June 15, including some cadets who could have future military careers ahead of them. Jackie Tinker of Kasigluk said that the program is rigorous.

“It's been difficult for the past 22 weeks. Or actually, I adapted, like, week 10. I got used to living in the academy so much that I don't want to leave,” Tinker said.

Tinker is seventeen and has five siblings: four sisters and one brother. They live with their mother in Kasigluk, but Tinker has lived at Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson for the past 22 weeks. Tinker described an environment at the academy that comes with a lot of structure.

“Wake up at six in the morning, go to reveille,” Tinker said.

Then cadets conduct their physical training, or PT, every day except Sunday, before they head to the chow hall for breakfast.

“We get Sundays off,” Tinker said.

Cadets in the program are in it for a variety of reasons.

“They come to us and can learn life skills, job skills, they can earn academic credentials, such as their GED or high school diploma, and/or they can do credit recovery and return back to their high school programs that they came from. It depends on their search, their academic situation,” said Recruiting, Placement, Mentoring Supervisor Deborah Morton.

The quasi-military program is geared towards 16 to 18-year-olds, but depending on their situation the program has admitted slightly younger and older students in the past.

“We work with them, they live with us for 22 weeks, and then we track them or follow them and keep in touch with them for a minimum of 12 months after they leave our program,” Morton said.

According to data from the academy, its graduates have a high success rate. It tracks its alumni for 12 months after they complete the program and finds that nearly 90% graduate high school. Morton said that about 10% of them enlist in the military within 12 months; others will get a GED or go to work after high school.

The academy also offers vocational training.

“For instance, we run a culinary arts program here on campus. We do supply logistics in our warehouse. And then we have students that obtain their flagger certification, their OSHA 10 certification, and then they can also get their building maintenance experience which includes construction, plumbing, electrical, those types of things," Morton said.

Morton said that the academy focuses on what’s called the “eight core components,” which is a holistic approach to a person's wellbeing. The components include leadership, responsible citizenship, academic excellence, job skills, life coping skills, health and hygiene, service to community, and physical fitness.

“So part of their health and hygiene is learning how to properly groom themselves, properly take care of their clothes. They learn to properly make their bed, they do their own laundry, they do their own cleaning of the barracks. They do lawn maintenance here on the grounds,” said Morton.

Now that Tinker has graduated, he said that he is planning to enlist in the U.S. Army. He said that he wants to learn a trade and aspires to build skills like leadership or work as a civil engineer or electrician. He also has plans after the graduation ceremony.

“I will go back home. Enjoy fishing, enjoy hunting. Go right back to school, finish, and keep in contact with the academy,” Tinker said.

Francisco Martínezcuello was the KYUK News Reporting Fellow from November 2022 through January 2024. He is a graduate of UC Berkeley School of Journalism. He is also a veteran of the United States Marine Corps.