These are the final interviews at the academy in
Cadet Senior Airman
"I'm more than excited," Baggett said, "I don't even know how to explain it."
But looking forward to finishing the 22-week residential portion of the program doesn't mean he didn't like it.
"I've learned a lot, though," he said. "I've never really successfully completed something like this before. It's a big part of my life."
Baggett said the trouble he was in before coming to the academy could have meant up to five years in jail. Completing the program means he essentially has a fresh start.
Over the next 12 months, he'll focus on completing the final portion of the Youth Challenge program by working with a mentor in his hometown of
Baggett met his mentor, a friend of his mother and grandmother, when he was in juvenile detention.
"We've constantly sent letters back and forth," he said of the man who will oversee his next steps. "He's just been there for me, more than most people."
Though he has a year to complete at
"The first thing I'm going to do is get a job and a car," he said. "Look at renting my own apartment until I can afford to buy a house. And then, go to college."
His goal is to become a zoologist.
"This is the first time in my whole entire life I can actually look forward to doing something that I know can be positive, instead of always wondering what will happen next or when I'll be in trouble next," he said. "It's like starting over."
Graduating from the academy is the equivalent of graduating from high school for Cadet Senior Airman
"As of Saturday, I have a diploma," Whitten said.
Having passed that milestone, she isn't spending any time wondering what to do next.
Whitten was scheduled to leave early this morning for four weeks of music camp at
After a few weeks of recovery, she'll set out for college at
Whitten said she will stay in touch with her mentor, her high school counselor, primarily via
Cadet Senior Airman
"It was kind of weird not waking up to hearing 'reveille, reveille' every morning," Hernandez said.
She'll lose the built-in routine of life at the academy when she graduates, but she has plans in place to keep her busy for the summer.
"I am going to volunteer with my mom," she said. "She works with hospice."
Hernandez's mentor is a co-worker of her mother's.
"She used to tell me stories when I'd go to my mom's work after school," Hernandez said. "I'm really excited because I went to her house over home pass and she has so many projects ready for us to do."
When school starts in the fall, she plans to switch from
Hernandez's goal after high school is to attend college for a year, then possibly enlist in the military.
For now, her task will be adjusting to post-academy life.
"I want to go home," she said. "But then I don't, because I'm going to miss it so much."
Now, Cadet Airman 1st Class Loftus said she's ready to take on her senior year at
In the meantime, she has two summer jobs lined up, at drive-in restaurants. And she is looking forward to horseback riding and shopping with her mentor, a longtime family friend who baby-sat her when she was younger.
As one of three cadets chosen to speak at Saturday's graduation, Loftus planned to share a quote from a poster in the English teacher's classroom at the academy: "We are what we repeatedly do; therefore excellence is not an act but a habit."
The habits she and her fellow cadets learned at the academy were transformative, she said.
"We kind of all have a different outlook on life now," she said. "Like we can do more than we thought we could."
When he came to the academy, it had been a couple years since Cadet Airman
"I'm gonna try and get a high school diploma, but if that doesn't work out I'll switch back to a GED," Coffey said.
He will live with an aunt in
His mentor coaches basketball at the Coeur d'Alene Tribe's wellness center in
More than academics, he said, the coping skills he learned during his 22 weeks at the academy will help him going forward.
"You learn how to control your emotions pretty fast here, because you'll meet kids here that you don't like or that you just grind with, and you have to basically learn how to tolerate them," he said.
Cadet Airman 1st Class
Krezman said he told students there about the Youth Challenge program and encouraged them to consider enrolling.
"It was a life-changing experience," he said of his time in
Krezman's new life started this weekend with graduation from the academy and a job washing dishes at a
He's hoping to attend summer school to make up the last few credits he'll need to be a senior at
"I'm gonna be buckled down with school and work," he said.
Life won't be all nose-to-the-grindstone, though.
While he was at the academy straightening out his life, Krezman's family and friends were working on a reward for him.
The humble Dodge Neon he bought for about
"It got done last weekend," Krezman said. "It's painted, my body kit's on, my turbo kit's in, my sound system's in. Everything. It's pristine."
His family sent a color book of paint chips so he could choose the finish -- metallic orange with a black hood.
"I can't wait," he said.
Stone may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (208) 848-2244. Follow her on
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