FARMINGTON — Aztec High School senior Isaiah Valdez has been accepted into the prestigious United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.
Valdez received his Certificate of Appointment to attend the military academy earlier this month and will report to West Point for basic training in June after graduating from high school.
"I know that I have a lot of potential, so I always wanted to go to a school where I could maximize on that potential," Valdez said. "A lot of my friends have gone to state colleges, and I really felt like that would limit me. I always wanted to go someplace (where I) would really challenge myself."
Valdez has been challenging himself already by participating in a number of school clubs, sports and volunteer organizations while maintaining a 4.2 GPA and taking only dual-credit classes at San Juan College his senior year.
Valdez was nominated for admission to West Point by U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, which is required for the application process to the military academy.
A spokeswoman for the United States Military Academy said the number of appointments accepted for the current class of students is not available.
Last year, 1,183 students were accepted out of 15,408 applicants, according to the website for the military academy.
Since eighth grade, Valdez has been part of the varsity wrestling team. He is also a member of the National Honor Society, the math honor society Mu Alpha Theta and the UmattR teen leadership program. The UmattR program, which is run by the San Juan Safe Communities Initiative, provides local youth role models who commit to live drug-, alcohol- and tobacco-free.
Greg Allen, executive director of initiative, said Valdez has participated in a wide range of activities in the program. Allen said Valdez will fit in well at the military academy.
"He has really good qualities that West Point really looks for in applicants across the nation," Allen said. "He's very eager. You can see that in him."
At the military academy, Valdez plans to pursue a bachelor's degree in mechanical or civil engineering. He hopes to work on fixed-wing or rotary-wing aircraft and learn to fly helicopters or planes in the future.
By accepting the appointment to the military academy, Valdez is preparing for an eight-year commitment to the military, with five years expected for active duty.
Valdez said the commitment sounds scary, but he'll be able to chase his childhood dream of flying.
"It's kind of a long commitment, and it's a scary thing," Valdez said. "I've always had a love of flying. I loved sitting in the window seat ... I want to make a job out of that."