LATHROP — “We’re shipping you off to military school!”
Well, if Assemblywomen Kristin Olsen and Susan Talamantes Eggman along with State Senator Cathleen Galgiani get their way, that won’t quite have the same connotation that it once did. The trio wants to secure a National Guard military-style academy – only the third in California – for Sharpe Depot.
Olsen spelled out the plan Monday a Lathrop City Council meeting. She talked about how the concept – if approved in Sacramento — will be only the 34th ever opened in the United States. It would be the first built in California north of San Luis Obispo. Such military schools have helped struggling students learn the discipline needed to make positive changes.
“It creates a higher success rate for what would otherwise be high school dropouts to graduate on time,” Olsen told the council. “And 60 percent of those students go onto earn a college education.”
Eggman has been working closely with Olsen, the National Guard and the San Joaquin County Office of Education to bring the ChalleNGe Youth Academy to Lathrop. A bill, authored Eggman (D-Stockton) and co-authored by Galgiani (D-Stockton) and Olsen (R-Modesto) – Assembly Bill 1518 – would allocate the $1.5 million needed to get the school off the ground. The federal government would provide a $3 million match that would cover the rest of the necessary funding.
Two other ChalleNGe Youth Academy sites are currently operational in California. They are the Grizzly Academy in San Luis Obispo and the Sunburst Youth Academy in Los Alamitos located in Orange County. If it gets off the ground the school could enroll up to 400 students at its inception. It would require the same Common Core standards that other high schools have to adhere to in California.
San Joaquin County currently has a 15.4 percent dropout rate. It is a full two points higher than the national average of 13.1 percent.
Unlike traditional high schools, students at a ChalleNGe Youth Academy wake up early in the morning to perform calisthenics, clean their living area and attend classes and training sessions. While the program is primarily funded by the federal government and features military-style discipline, the program is billed much the same way that local JROTC classes are. That means they are not necessarily a recruitment tool for the armed forces, but a leadership-building experience for students.