Madera High Sends Third Student to a Service Academy in Three Years
Known throughout school, a captain both on and off the basketball court, and now, an incoming first-year cadet at the United States Air Force Academy. Addyson Smith is the third person from Madera High in the last three years to win an appointment to a service academy.
Initially, she wasn’t planning on the Air Force Academy. The U.S. Military Academy at West Point first reached out to her. She hadn’t even explored the option of a service academy until she was approached.
“I went on an official visit in December to the Air Force Academy and that just, kinda like, sold me,” Smith said.
Smith will study astronautical engineering, but she doesn’t have to permanently select her major until her sophomore year, so she’s keeping an open mind. Her childhood dream of working for NASA and her love for space propelled her interest, and she will now have the opportunity to reach her dream.
She didn’t intend on going to the academy, though, until December, which is fairly late for most seniors set on becoming a cadet. Smith also didn’t know the amount of hurdles she would overcome.
“[That’s an]… understatement. The application for an academy is very rigorous and there’s multiple steps,” Smith said.
For Air Force applicants, a meeting with a liaison is also required- one step in which West Point applicants don’t need to complete. Both applications include three difficult essays that must be completed as well.
The simpler part is mainly the fill-in-the-blank questionnaire about yourself and your family. All of this may seem like a quest in itself, but the hardest part is acquiring a nomination from a U. S. Congressional representative or the Vice President of the United States.
“And that took months to get. Um, it’s very time consuming, so it’s recommended to start your junior year–the end of your junior year.” Smith said.
She didn’t face the process alone. Her parents, coaches she talked with, and other Madera High alumni who currently attend the other service academies helped her along the way.
Smith mentioned Ricky Niino (Class of 2016) and Christopher Rieping (Class of 2015)–both enrolled in West Point–supported her along with Sam Chadwick (Class of 2012), who is currently enrolled in the Air Force. Their advice was invaluable, she said.
“I haven’t really talked to my counselors much to get the assistance, but whenever you ask them for something, they’ll do it for you.” Smith said.
Smith’s experiences at high school have played a large role in her preparation for the Air Force Academy.
“I’m getting in through an Athletic Scholarship type-of-thing and playing three sports was a huge part, not just focusing on one sport. And then, I’ve taken a lot of AP classes and I worked really hard on my SAT and ACT scores.” Smith said.
Although she says her athletics contributed in a big way, she also promotes building yourself both academically and athletically. She believes balance is key.
Smith played basketball for her entire life, was on varsity for four years, and has held the role of captain for the past two years. She also was on the varsity track and field team for four years and golf for three years.
She has been successful in her athletics, even helping the varsity basketball team win as Valley Champions while being out due to an injury she sustained during pre-season.
“I’m happy for everybody, it was a good season.” Smith said about the team winning Valley.
She has already started preparing for the academy. She first has to complete basic training. Her main focus, at this point, is healing to ensure that she can complete the training and build up her strength.
“I’m really excited to go out and do some awesome stuff.” Smith said.
She turned to YouTube and a cadet that she stayed with to learn more about basic training. During her stay at the academy, she talked to the cadet about many things. It contains general military training and some athletic trials, but the most important part is the placement test that is taken at six weeks.
“You have to be mentally and physically tough, and that’s what I’m really pushing… to be able to do the stuff because it’s physically rigorous,” Smith said.
The three admitted Madera High alumni had to face this entire process as well. Ricky Niino is currently finishing his plebe year and Christopher Rieping is completing his second year at West Point, but Samuel Chadwick has already finished his first four years and will now be serving his country in the Air Force.
According to Smith, after her four years at the academy, she will serve as a commissioned officer for another five. She isn’t sure what her future will look like after the next nine years, however, she’s excited to head to Colorado.
She expects the academy to challenge her both mentally and physically. While the stress and rigor may scare many, Smith relates her current lifestyle to the one she expects to have at the academy.
“That’s something I’m looking forward to because it’s kind of how my life is right now. Like, I’m always going, going, going. I wouldn’t want to change it to something more lax,” she said.
As Smith finishes her last year of high school, she encourages interested underclassmen to apply to service academies and not let rejection stop them. Her story shows that it just takes one moment to change a person’s life.