Choosy students choose Choice’s ‘Circle of Courage’

Choice Academy is an alternative school in the North Kitsap School District that focuses on kids who like a smaller learning environment.

“Students say that the bigger schools stress them out, and they’re overwhelmed,” principal Penny Therrien said.

Heading into its fifth year, Choice is part of the Kingston High School campus and is now enrolling students for the 2022-23 school year. Choice’s first cohort of 18 students graduated in June, and Therrien is encouraging students to consider the academy for this year. Choice offers low student-teacher ratios, with about 20 students in each grade, ninth through 12th.

Therrien said students enroll at Choice because they are looking for a place that’s not as overwhelming as larger high schools. “The number one reason why kids come here is because they know that if they’re in a smaller environment they will be able to get more individualized attention from either a teacher or counselor, or in our case, our academic help center,” Therrien said.

Choice Academy’s community ethos is the Circle of Courage.

“It’s a philosophy that used to be a Native American child-rearing philosophy, and it’s kind of evolved into education, and it meshes the two worlds together,” Therrien said, adding this ideology also integrates and crosses cultures to help at-risk students.

The Circle of Courage has four components that match with any educational philosophy: belonging, mastery, independence and generosity.

The most important is belonging. “We feel that if we make our school environment kid-friendly, kids will want to be there,” Therrien said. “The school incorporates all aspects of school to ensure students have a positive learning environment.”

That includes everything within the physical structure of the school, such as student-friendly furniture, motivational quotes and posters on the walls, and includes staff who want to help students learn about what their unique tendencies are to help them be successful. “Belonging is key and that positive climate culture comes along with that,” Therrien said.

Mastery and independence includes respect for one another, teachers and themselves, which helps students feel less distracted and improves school discipline and generosity of spirit.

“The cool part about all of this is, if you superimpose that Circle of Courage on top of our school district strategic plan, it fits nicely,” Therrien said. “If we can provide them with that and teach them those skills, then when it comes time for them to graduate, they’ll be able to give back to their school community, their families and be generous citizens and happy people.”

Another reason students seek out Choice is for the career and technical programs that offer flexibility for students to explore their options. Students may attend classes for part or all of a day. “A lot of our programs launch kids into the world of work, the military, the Career Technical Education School at Olympic College and four year colleges,” Therrien said.

Choice students may also take classes at North Kitsap and Kingston high schools and attend commencement ceremonies at the school of their choice.

With an emphasis on creating a peaceful daily environment, students learn to manage their time by watching the clock instead of relying on loud bells signaling class changes. The schedule is the same as Kingston and North Kitsap, which allows students to participate in sports at those schools, too.

School work is project-based and focuses on hands-on learning. Choice provides assistance with after-school tutoring and the Academic Hope Center offers students opportunities to access credit recovery and intervention opportunities.

Dates to remember

Aug. 25, 5 p.m. — Online informational night for North Kitsap Online Academy.

Aug. 29, 9 a.m.-noon — All student orientation day with school tours in the afternoon.

Aug. 31 — First day of school.

To learn more, visit or call Therrien at 360-396-3575.