Graduation season is in full swing, with in-person ceremonies finally happening again as more people are vaccinated from the coronavirus. For one group of students out in Santa Clarita, this meant a proper event to congratulate them on their desire to serve.
Students from schools all over California’s 25th Congressional District and their families gathered at the Embassy Suites in Valencia on Saturday, June 5, to be recognized for their accomplishments by Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita.
Sixteen students from the area will attend military academies or prep schools in the fall; 12 were available to attend the ceremony.
Joshua Kang, a senior at Highland High School in Palmdale who will attend the United States Naval Academy, said he was grateful the event could take place.
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“Seeing everyone here who got through this rigorous process is awesome,” Kang said. “I wasn’t sure this was going to happen because of the pandemic, so it’s just nice to see everyone here.”
Kang also said that, though he isn’t sure exactly what he wants to do for the Navy, he’s knows he wants to study economics at the academy.
Garcia delivered remarks during the ceremony, telling the students that the next four years would be educational and very rewarding while also telling the parents that it would be emotionally challenging for them. The congressman has first-hand experience when it comes to this because he attended the U.S. Naval Academy. He served for 10 years in the Navy after college, flying combat missions in Iraq.
The congressman said he was very excited to see young people ready and willing to serve the country in a time of division and turmoil.
“We need good leaders,” Garcia said. “We need people who are founded with the right attributes, the right values – conservative values but patriotic values. Kids who were raised in the right households who understand what it means to take pride in our beautiful country.”
After Garcia’s remarks, each appointee received a certificate signed by the congressman as well as a flag that had actually flown over the United States Capitol as a congratulatory gift.
It was a difficult journey for many of the appointees to reach their respective academies. Though there isn’t any singular roadmap, one pied of advice kept coming up – don’t wait.
“Some advice I would give people is start as early as possible,” said Gabriella Meccia who graduated from Bishop Alemany High School in Simi Valley and will attend the Air Force Academy. “Also, put yourself out there, don’t be afraid to make phone calls.”
Students in the 25th Congressional District accepted into military academies:
Joseph Ahart, William S. Hart High School, Santa Clarita: U.S. Military Academy;
Luke Hoelzel, West Ranch High School, Santa Clarita: U.S. Military Academy;
Kevin Duong, West Ranch High School, Castaic: U.S. Air Force Academy;
Benjamin Valdez, West Ranch High School, Stevenson Ranch: U.S. Naval Academy;
Izabela Gorcynski, Saugus High School, Santa Clarita: U.S. Naval Academy;
Hunter Romine, West Ranch High School, Santa Clarita: U.S. Military Academy;
Chapman Wolf, Trinity Classical Academy, Castaic: U.S. Air Force Academy;
Shane Sypher, Trinity Classical Academy, Castaic: U.S. Naval Academy;
Gabriella Meccia, Bishop Alemany High School, Simi Valley: U.S. Air Force Academy;
Kemp Fairbanks, Vasquez High School, Agua Dulce: U.S. Military Academy;
Joshua Kang, Highland High School, ,Palmdale: U.S. Naval Academy;
Shine Lim, Valencia High School, Valencia: U.S. Military Academy;
Sierra Paoli, Naval Academy Preparatory School, Simi Valley – U.S. Naval Academy;
Elias Larry, Sierra Canyon School (resides in Palmdale: U.S. Naval Academy;
Sammy Matta, Connecting Water Charter School, Palmdale: U.S. Naval Academy Preparatory School; and
Diego Soto, Royal High School, Simi Valley: U.S. Naval Academy Preparatory School.