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Two students head to Air Force

Valencia High School seniors to take off in June

Posted: March 6, 2009 12:36 a.m.
Updated: March 6, 2009 4:30 a.m.

Cadet 2nd Lt., David Dunkel, left, and cadet Lt. Colonel, Sophia Villagrasa of the Valencia High ROTC program were accepted to the Air Force.

Two local high school Reserve Officers' Training Corps cadets are about to make the jump from high school life to the U.S. Air Force Academy in June.

"Aviation has always been a huge influence in my life," said Valencia High School senior David Dunkel, who grew up in Palmdale near Edwards Air Force Base before moving to Valencia.

Dunkel joined the ROTC two years ago because the program is run by cadets.

Through its intense physical training and leadership building, Dunkel learned about personal responsibility and the importance of sticking to a work ethic.

"It's so different than any other student organization," he said.

Sophia Villagrasa got hooked on ROTC after taking part in military camp the summer before her freshman year at Saugus High School.

She initially planned to attend soccer training during the summer, but a strong sense of camaraderie among her 20 co-cadets changed her mind.

Villagrasa, a first-generation American, spent the past four years at Saugus High School as part of the ROTC program.

The two credit the ROTC program for their own personal growth and appreciation for those who are older.

"It's not demeaning to respect adults, each other," Villagrasa said.

Dunkel hopes to one day become a pilot while Villagrasa is focused on aeronautical engineering.

The two, both 17 and high school seniors, start at the United States Air Force Academy June 25.

Dunkel and Villagrasa will graduate with a bachelor's degree and a commission as a second lieutenant in 2013.

Roughly 9,000 students across the nation applied to the Air Force Academy while only 1,500 students receive an appointment.

The two students join five other former cadets from the Valencia High School ROTC program currently attending one of the three military academies.

The William S. Hart Union High School District's ROTC program remains stable with about 120 cadets district-wide, said Capt. Ed Colley.

For many students, military training builds knowledge and connects them to careers.

"It's a top-notch education. It's probably the best resume builder available to students," Colley said. "It guarantees you a job when you come out."

ROTC gives students of all backgrounds and academic levels the chance to work together and build leadership skills.

"It's a balanced program for all kinds of kids," Colley said.


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