Thunderbird Accepting Applications for January Class

Oklahoma has recognized the valuable role the Oklahoma National Guard performs by redirecting at-risk youth to lead more productive lives

By: Toni Zetina | Category: Special Interest | Issue: January 2009

Pictured: Captain Heather Arndt, director of Youth Programs Division of Oklahoma, Mr. Randy Doerneman, director of OU Center for Independent and Distance Learning, Cadet Swigart, Cadet Good, Cadet Henry, and Mr. Bryan Gonterman, president of AT&T Oklahoma.

For nearly 15 years, Oklahoma has recognized the valuable role the Oklahoma National Guard performs by redirecting at-risk youth to lead more productive lives. The Youth Programs Division (YPD) consists of the Thunderbird Youth Academy (TYA), the Thunderbird Regimented Training Program (TRTP), and the STARS program. YPD programs have achieved spectacular success in working with high school dropouts, at-risk youth, and adjudicated youth, having served over 20,000 Oklahoma youth. TYA is now accepting applications for its January class. The deadline to submit an application is January 15, 2009.

The primary mission of TYA is to help at-risk youth find the inner strength they need to change their course in life, continue their education, and become productive members of Oklahoma society. These youth are high school dropouts, so far behind their academic peer group they are failing out of high school, or problem youth causing trouble at home and school.

TYA is a residential program housed on the Whitaker Education Training Center campus in Pryor, Oklahoma. The program has two cycles each year, with new classes starting in January and July. It is a 17-month program for 16- to 19-year-old high school dropouts, male and female, and consists of a five-month residential phase and a 12-month community-based post-residential phase. During the residential phase, enrolled youth are in residence at the Whitaker Center 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

TYA gives youth the opportunity to gain control over their lives by increasing academic performance and teaching essential life skills that will enable them to compete in the workplace and manage a healthy family environment. The program utilizes a quasi-military approach, capitalizing on military assets, doctrine and principles to teach self-discipline and improve self-esteem and physical fitness, thereby addressing the needs of the whole person.

Eight core components constitute the program: academic excellence, life coping skills, job skills, health and hygiene, responsible citizenship, service to the community, leadership and followership, and physical fitness. TYA serves up to 250 cadets per year.

Thunderbird Youth Academy and the Thunderbird Regimented Training Programs are proud to announce that they have been selected as recipients of the 2008 AT&T High School Success Special Grants Program for their new education initiative with the University of Oklahoma, the Thunderbird High School Credit Program.

The Thunderbird High School Credit Program is an innovative partnership with the University of Oklahoma’s long standing and highly regarded OU High School. With this new partnership, cadets have the opportunity to earn high school credits through OU’s Center for Independent and Distance Learning while attending one of the Thunderbird programs.

“The Thunderbird High School Credit Program allows our cadets the option of continuing their high school courses, so they can return to high school on par with their classmates, or gain those last few credits needed for a high school diploma,” said Mr. Jack Ritchie, director of TYA.

“We are absolutely grateful for all the support we receive from the Oklahoma Military Department, the AT&T Foundation for their financial support, and OU High School for serving as another partner in education,” said Heather Arndt, director of Youth Programs Division. “We are also grateful to Thunderbird Challenge Inc., the non-profit organized with the sole mission of assisting the Thunderbird programs in saving Oklahoma’s at-risk youth.”

To learn more about Thunderbird Youth Academy, please visit their website,, or call the main line at (918) 824-4850 or Toni Zetina at (918) 824-4809. Deadline to receive applications for the upcoming class is January 15, 2009. To enroll, the youth must be 16 to 19 years of age, a resident of the state of Oklahoma, a high school dropout, drug-free, mentally and physically capable of completing the program, uninvolved in the legal system, and willing to attend, as TYA is a voluntary program. 

For more information, contact

Thunderbird Youth Academy

(918) 824-4850

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