On September 11, 2001, our nation united in shock as we watched the World Trade Centers collapse.
For 8th Graders throughout the Santa Clarita Valley, 9/11 had a profound effect, one that altered many lives. That following September, well over 100 students enrolled in the Junior ROTC program at Valencia High School, far more than ever before.
Four years later, two of those students graduated from Valencia High School with a nomination to the United States Military Academy at West Point, Joe Perez and Ryan Van Wie. They were two of three students from the Santa Clarita Valley to enter West Point as the Class of 2010.
Now, with only six months left before graduating from the academy, Ryan returned to his High School alma mater, spending a day at Valencia High and the following day at Golden Valley, home to a second Junior ROTC program in Santa Clarita to share his experiences with current High School students.
"During my sophomore year at West Point I did a similar presentation at the schools," Ryan Van Wie reminisced. This time, I found it much more rewarding because I am able to relay my experiences from a totally different perspective."
Van Wie spoke to about 800 students over the two days. "Many kids didn't realize what the Academy experience is all about," Van Wie commented. "They didn't appreciate that their education is paid for at one of the top schools in the country."
Recently, Forbes Magazine named West Point the top school in the country, passing out legendary institutions such as Princeton, Harvard, Yale, M.I.T (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Stanford.
"But these kids need to realize, attending West Point is a commitment," Van Wie added. "It's not like attending those other schools. All cadets upon graduation become an officer (2nd Lieutenant) in the United States Army and owe 5 years of active duty service. Along with a rigorous academic program, we spend a significant amount of time on military exercises and studies, and everyone participates in some form of organized athletics."
This past summer, Van Wie spent six weeks in Washington DC, participating in an internship at the State Department's, Counterterrorism Office.
"It was a great experience." Van Wie relayed. "It showed me how American Foreign policy is created and implemented. I worked with officials from several Government agencies and every branch of the military. I saw, what I was learning in school, put into action."
In May, Van Wie graduates and will be commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. He's elected to enter the Infantry Branch of the Army. Upon graduation, he will spend close to a year at Fort Benning, Georgia training for his future career in the Infantry.
Van Wie reminisced to KHTS, "The friendships and camaraderie have been incredible. Even though the work has been hard, the rewards have been worth it. Attending West Point has been the best decision I ever made."
Note: Ryan Van Wie is the son of KHTS owners Carl Goldman & Jeri Seratti-Goldman