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Student cadets graduate from military-style program with second chance at life

Jun 14, 2022

For many, a second chance can be an opportunity of a lifetime.

That has been the case for Amanda Martinez, a student cadet at the Sunburst Youth Academy, who spoke in front of more than 400 people attending the commencement ceremony for the program’s 29th graduating class on June 10.

Being a graduate speaker was not something Amanda pictured for herself. Nearly six months before this day, she was skipping school and in danger of failing out of high school.

“I started prioritizing a number of things including people, but not my education,” Student Cadet Amanda Martinez said. “I believe I failed at life. In a world so big and full of opportunities, I felt alone and discouraged.”

An opportunity to enroll in the Sunburst Youth Academy was presented to Amanda and she made the decision to seize it.

Operated by the California National Guard in partnership with the Orange County Department of Education, the academy is a free residential leadership program that gives local teens who’ve faced significant obstacles a second chance at life. The academy is a five-and-a-half month, military-style program where youth can earn high school credits while developing leadership, pride, confidence and academic skills. During their time at Sunburst, cadets live on base, attend high school during the day and work on physical fitness, life skills, team-building and goal-setting activities before and after school...

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