Craig Day, News On 6
PRYOR, Oklahoma -- It was a big day at the Thunderbird Youth Academy. The military style program designed to give young men and women a second chance broke ground on a new facility Tuesday.
It's hoped the progress will lead to more young women taking advantage of the program.
Cadets and dignitaries were gathered on a windy, sunshine filled day to celebrate a bright future for the Thunderbird Youth Academy. A future that will include a new $503,000 girls barracks.
"We have excellent staff, we have an excellent program. They do great work, but we'd like our facilities to match the quality of the program," said Jack Ritchie, TYA Director.
Thunderbird Youth Academy uses military style discipline and leadership training to give high school dropouts a second chance at success.
"It's just a place to get your life on track so that you don't fall deeper into whatever you were already in," said Cadet Jaimee Herskind.
But right now, out of 105 cadets, only 16 are young women. The academy hopes the new dorm will attract more female cadets.
"You always like new things, so they'll be attracted to the newness, the openness," Herskind said.
The new barracks will be able to house 30 to 40 cadets.
"We feel like we have a dynamic program, but maybe it's a little bit of a letdown, when you get here and you see the facilities that we operate out of," Ritchie said.
The project is being funded through federal stimulus money and funds from the Oklahoma Military Department.
"I think the more space and the more area they have will make it more convenient and easier for them," said Cadet Mario De La Torre.
Since its start in 1993, more than three thousand cadets have graduated from Thunderbird. It's hoped the new barracks will add to that success for many years to come.
"I'm tremendously excited. This program is one of a kind, there is no other in the state like it and we feel like we can do great things," Ritchie said.
Construction on the female barracks is expected to be finished this next spring, with the first group of women cadets using it at the start of the 22 week session which begins in July.