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Academy charts new path for alternative education
Cadets in the first class of the Stanislaus Military Academy stand at attention on the basketball court at John B. Allard School. The students were recognized on Thursday at their basic cadet training graduation. - photo by ANDREA GOODWIN / The Journal
Cadets in full uniform sat perfectly still in their seats on the basketball court at John B. Allard School Thursday evening. Despite the scorching heat rising from the blacktop below them, these high school students didn’t move a muscle, not even to wipe the sweat that was running down their faces.
These students were graduating from basic cadet training, the first step in the newly formed Stanislaus Military Academy. The new program at John. B. Allard School is open to any student enrolled in the Stanislaus County Office of Education’s Alternative Education Program.
“The amazing thing is that these students are not mandated to join the military academy,” said Alberto Velarde, principal of John B. Allard, who oversees the academy. Velarde addressed the students at a back to school night for students and parents.
Students who chose to join the Stanislaus Military Academy started basic cadet training on Aug. 24. They spent four days and three nights camping at the Livingston Boy Scout Center. During that time they underwent training with an emphasis on drill and ceremony, leadership and team-building. They also had lessons on successful living, discipline, character development and first aid.
The 17 boys and six girls of the first SMA class woke up at 5:30 a.m. every day to practice drill and ceremony. Part of their training included learning proper military bearing. They learned how to stand at attention, how to march and how to act while in uniform. Fred Bigler, liaison between SCOE and the academy, said that cadet training was only a small part of what these students would be doing during the year-long military academy.
“There will be a lot of focus on academics in this program. The seniors especially will put an emphasis on credit recovery,” Bigler said.
Some of the students in the Stanislaus Military Academy are fourth year high school students who are behind on credits and may not graduate on time in another academic program. The military academy focuses on disciplined academic study to help cadets catch up to their peers.
Tom Chagnon, superintendent of the Stanislaus County Office of Education, said that he was inspired to create the program when he visited a military academy in Virginia. He said he saw what that kind of program did for the students at the academy, and he wanted to try it in Stanislaus County.
“I was convinced, without a doubt, that we have young men and women who want a better life for themselves,” Chagnon said.
Students enrolled in the program said that, so far, they have learned how to work with other cadets and show them respect. They said they learned self control, confidence and the ability to work as a team.
“We all are equal in this academy,” said Rodrigo Molina, a cadet in the program.
Other students were just proud to be part of the first ever Stanislaus Military Academy. They said it gave them the potential to succeed in school.
“I came into this academy lacking a few character traits,” said Jonathan Gentry. “I came in a big procrastinator, and I finished.”
Cadets will spend the rest of the year studying and practicing drills and military bearing as a group. The mission of SMA is to help cadets develop in ways that will make them successful adults, ready to enter college or the workforce when they graduate.
To contact Andrea Goodwin, e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2003.