After three years of steady growth at its school in Riverdale, the Utah Military Academy (UMA) is opening a Lehi campus this fall. Enrollment is currently open, with about 200 cadets already enrolled and room for about 50-100 more.
UMA is a 7th-12th grade college prep charter school which operates in a military environment, including dressing in uniform every day of the week and learning military history, behavior and formations.
Because original plans for the school’s location ran into trouble due to opposition to the design from neighbors, the school will operate for the 2017-18 school year in a building at 704 South 600 East in American Fork. UMA officials plan to break ground at the permanent Lehi location in the Holbrook Farms development at 2100 North in September.
While people might sometimes associate a military school with a reform school or boot camp, UMA is neither of these. Course offerings include concurrent enrollment and AP classes, with an emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects. Extracurricular offerings include a number of sports and teams, including a Speech and Debate Team which took third in region last year.
“The vast majority of our students want to go into the military,” said executive director Matt Throckmorton, “but they don’t have to.” All students are cadets, and the school has formal relationships with the U.S. military. Once students graduate from the school, they can go on to college or enter the military directly.
Throckmorton said that of the cadets who graduated last year, one was accepted to the Air Force Academy, one to West Point, one made the wait list at Harvard and another at the Naval Academy. Students who choose to go directly into the services enjoy the advantage of entering two ranks ahead of the usual starting rank.
While the Riverdale location is associated with the Air Force, the Lehi location will be associated with the Army. Rank advantage transfers to any branch of the military in which a cadet may wish to serve, regardless of the branch their junior cadet training was in.
When representatives of the accrediting organization AdvancEd conducted their site review, they noted that they were impressed by the culture, which they described as being a “band of brothers.”
“We work very hard to build a team,” said Throckmorton, who emphasized that the school strives to give every student leadership opportunities. “Everybody deserves to be good at something, so we want to give them an opportunity to do that.”
A student who enrolls at UMA can expect a typical day to start at 8:00 a.m. and end at 4:30 p.m. except Fridays, which at conclude at 3:15 p.m. Schoolwide formation is held for 15 minutes between first period and second period. During the last period of the day, called “Team Time,” cadets can pursue a wide variety of enrichment opportunities. The school is open to both male and female students.
Before each class, cadets line up at their classrooms, where they are greeted at the door by their teachers. Cadets are expected to stand by their desks until given permission to sit. Every student will have a military-specific class in their schedule. Throckmorton described the course content and school environment as “aggressive academics as well as aggressive military instruction,” with close attention to detail.
The school will host two distinguished guest speakers in the next three months. On June 28 at 6:00 p.m., a World War II survivor who participated at Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge, and helped liberate a concentration camp will be featured. On September 15, a survivor of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis – one of fewer than 30 remaining – will be featured, also at 6:00 p.m. Both events will be held at the American Fork location.