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At the Grizzly Youth Academy, Thanksgiving looks a little different this year because of COVID-19

Thanksgiving dinner
Posted at 11:31 PM, Nov 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-26 02:44:24-05

At the Grizzly Youth Academy, Thanksgiving looks a little different this year because of COVID-19.

Angelina Leyva has been at the Grizzly Youth Academy for about 4 months and is close to graduating. She says throughout her time here she's built self confidence.

"It allowed me to just really be a part of just a community," said Grizzly Youth Academy Cadet, Angelina Leyva.

Leyva says she used to isolate herself at home but at the academy she quickly made new friends.

"I'm just really grateful that people believe in me and they don't give up on me and I'm just really grateful for that," said Leyva.

She credits the cadre at the academy for being good role models.

"They set the example and I look up to a lot of them," said Leyva.

Though the cadets normally go home for Thanksgiving the pandemic has kept them at the academy for the first time this year.

"If we sent the kids home we have no guarantee that they would come back free of COVID-19. So I determined that it's best to keep them here," said Grizzly Youth Academy Director, Phillip Joel Armstrong.

Enrique De Jesus is spending his first Thanksgiving away from home, but he is thankful to be with his friends at Grizzly Youth Academy.

"I was scared coming here. I was scared but as the months went by it just became normal and it changed my idea and gave me a sense of purpose," said Grizzly Youth Academy Cadet, Enrique De Jesus.

He says before attending the academy he didn't have a clear goal for his future but after spending time at the academy he has decided he wants to join the marines after graduation. He credits the youth academy for his newfound self-confidence.

"Definitely the most important thing I learned is that you are going to make mistakes, you are going to fall, but you can get back up," said Grizzly Youth Academy Cadet, Enrique De Jesus.

The cadets say the lessons they've learned and role models they've looked up to will stick with them for life.

"Saergant Colbert is definitely probably my biggest role model here. The way he carries himself is the way I would like to carry myself in the future," said De Jesus.

The cadets will be graduating in just a few weeks on December 4th.