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WYA second-phaser says academy put him back on track

Johnathan LeBlanc, graduate of phase one of the Washington Youth Academy’s ChalleNGe program, poses after the graduation ceremony at Bremerton High School. - Courtesy Photo
Johnathan LeBlanc, graduate of phase one of the Washington Youth Academy’s ChalleNGe program, poses after the graduation ceremony at Bremerton High School.
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

For Jonathan LeBlanc, regular school just didn’t work.

“I just didn’t like how the classes are,” he said. “The teachers at regular high schools aren’t the same. At the academy, you feel like everyone really wants to help you.”

The Klahowya Secondary School senior found himself falling behind on his graduation requirements and needed a way that worked for him, so his mom, Kelly Jones, suggested the Washington Youth Academy.

“I was behind about 15 credits at my high school so my mom gave me a brochure,” LeBlanc said. “She told me I just had to live there for six months and go to school there. I have always kinda been thinking about the military, but I was never sure, so it was a chance to see what it might be like.”

LeBlanc graduated from the first phase of the academy’s ChalleNGe program and is currently in phase two. He said phase one was very structured.

“Everyday we woke up, had breakfast, worked out, went to school, had lunch, went back to school, then worked out again, did homework, went to bed and then did it all over again,” he said.

LeBlanc wasn’t sure what to expect going into the academy, but said it was more difficult than he imagined.

“It was a lot harder than I expected,” he said. “It took a while for me to get used to it. I didn’t think it really would be hard, but the first day...I thought I’d fall asleep easily, but I didn’t fall asleep for hours.”

LeBlanc said he knows the academy was the right decision for him, but it took him some time to realize that fact.

“I second-guessed my decision all the time in the beginning,” LeBlanc said. “The pre-challenge phase seemed like it would never end. But toward the end, the goal seemed more attainable. It felt like I could do it.”

Since graduating from phase one, LeBlanc has been busy catching up on his credits, even doing some class work at Olympic College.

“I went to OC to take a math class,” he said. “I was really surprised because math was always my worst subject. I felt like I wouldn’t do well because it was at a college, but I finished the class with a 98 percent.”

LeBlanc started attending Central Kitsap Alternative High School this summer in his quest to get himself back on the path to his goal and hope of transferring out for his last semester.

“I want to finish about seven credits so I can go back to Klahowya to finish my last semester as a senior there,” he said.

Besides his classes, LeBlanc meets with his mentor once or twice each week. The mentor is part of phase two and each graduate is assigned one. Their purpose is to help graduates stay focused on their goals.

“(My mentor) is a role model for me,” he said. “I met him when I was in the academy and now I feel like I need to remain that way when I’m around him. I don’t want to disappoint him.”

LeBlanc hasn’t decided yet what he plans to do after getting his high school diploma, but military service and college are his top choices so far.

“I looked into the Air Force and a couple of classes at OC,” he said. “I haven’t decided yet. I loved it at OC. I only had one class, but I enjoyed being there.”

Jones said she is very proud of her son and is thankful for the academy.

“I’m very proud of (LeBlanc) for all that he accomplished in the academy and for all that he has accomplished since he graduated,” Jones said. “It is a shame that the Washington Youth Academy isn’t a graduation requirement for all. We would be a better society for it.”

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