AHS Senior to Continue Marching After Graduation
Abigail Hatfield partially credits her experience in the Avon Marching Black and Gold for preparing her to march across the Avon High School graduation stage this spring and to continue marching when she arrives at the United States Military Academy — more commonly referred to as USMA or West Point — this summer.
"It is an rare honor, not to mention a courageous act of service, to seek and gain acceptance to West Point," says Principal Matt Shockley. "I am extremely proud of Abigail."
AHS Bands Director Kevin Welborn calls Abigail an exceptional individual, student, and musician, and says, "We are certainly proud of Abigail and this major accomplishment. It’s no surprise, however, giving her work ethic and commitment to her craft over the years."
We interviewed this busy high school senior via email. Her responses are below, slightly edited for this format.
How did you feel when you discovered you'd been accepted to West Point?
I was extremely excited when I first received the news that I had been accepted to West Point. There are so many criteria that must be met to be accepted, I was sure I would be called out on a technicality for at least one of them. When I received my appointment (what they refer to as "acceptance"), I was sent an offer of admission and a certificate of appointment.
Attending Avon has helped me in so many ways, not least of which was participating in the marching band for four years. ... The training we were put through will help me when doing physical training in any part of the military, as well as providing me with the mental fortitude to push ahead when things get tough. Abigail Hatfield
For someone who might not understand the significance of attending West Point, give us an idea of what you're getting into and what it means?
The United States Military Academy, commonly referred to as USMA or West Point, is America's post secondary school to train the army. The first thing I will do is attend R-day, aka reception day or plebe day, on June 26. After that, I will attend a six-week basic training session known as Beast, due to the high training standards. In those six weeks, I will learn marksmanship, land navigation, rappelling, comradery, and many other skills necessary to being in the army. At the end of the six weeks, the new cadets take a 12-mile ruck back to campus. The school year at West Point is a lot more regimented than that of almost any other school. Meals are at set times, there are inspections of quarters and uniforms, specific uniforms must be worn each day (as well as for exercise), the folding of clothes and making of beds are regulated, and, as opposed to most colleges, there is no way to graduate early. Once I graduate from the Point, I am obligated to serve five years active duty and three years reserve (as opposed to the four and four for ROTC scholarships).
What are you most excited about?
I am most excited about going to a school that is relatively small and relatively far from big cities. The student-to-faculty ratio is about 8:1 and there are less than 20 cadets in most classes, so I will have a better experience with my teachers than at a larger school. Similarly, the school is in rural New York, on the West point of the Hudson river. It has a beautiful view without the interference of too many modern distractions.
What are your plans for the future?
As far as plans for the future, I am aiming for an engineering degree, though I've yet to decide which one. Once I graduate, I will be a Second Lieutenant, and I plan to join the branch of Engineers. From there, I intend to go as far as I can in military rank.
The schedule is very strict with little room for negotiation and free periods are usually spent as study periods. "Large parties" that other schools have would be a "group run" at The Point. Abigail Hatfield
How has your time at AHS — including academics, your educators, and extracurricular involvement — prepared you for West Point?
I think attending Avon has helped me in so many ways, not least of which was participating in the marching band for four years. Although the military is much more strenuous than the band, the training we were put through will help me when doing physical training in any part of the military, as well as providing me with the mental fortitude to push ahead when things get tough. The band also taught me one fundamental that many who join the army don't know how to do: march in time. I also believe the comradery I experienced, as well as the chain of command I was a part of, is a very good example of what I will experience in the army. As far as classes go, I think Mr. Haiducu and Mr. Record's classes have prepared me best. I am currently taking my second year of both AP Physics and AP Calculus. While West Point doesn't offer AP credit explicitly, I can earn "validation" for classes if I prove to be proficient enough. This would result in the ability to substitute an elective for the core class.
What would you say to other AHS students who might consider choosing your path?
For any student considering West Point, or any of the service academies, I would recommend looking into the application process as soon as possible. Even if you aren't 100% sure you want to apply, the academies have a rather long application process, so it's best to start as soon as possible. The application for West Point opens January of junior year. I would highly recommend starting at this time. There are four main parts to a West Point application: academics, physical fitness, medical fitness, and a congressional nomination (though you can also get a vice presidential nomination, this is more rare). The academic application is like most college applications. You input grades, upload a transcript, write essays, and you need four "school official evaluations" (one from an English, Math, Physics/Chemistry, and Health/PE teacher). The Physical Fitness Assessment consists of a basketball throw, pullups (with a flexed arm hang for women), pushups, shuttle run, situps, and a one-mile run. The medical exams must be reviewed by the Department of Defense Medical Review Board. The nominations are a separate application. I would recommend applying for as many as you can. Each candidate can apply for their two senators along with their congressional district's representative. I applied for Jim Baird, Todd Young, and Mike Braun's nomination. You must receive a nomination in order to earn an appointment to the academy. I would also recommend, if at all possible, attending Girls or Boys State. This is a great leadership experience and is often looked for by admissions officers.
It is very important to know what you're getting into when applying to a service academy. These schools will be more strenuous than any Ivy league college. The mental and physical experiences of the cadets is unlike normal college life. At normal colleges, students have commented on poor time management skills, having too much free time, and having large parties. Many of these are impossible at the service academies. The schedule is very strict with little room for negotiation and free periods are usually spent as study periods. "Large parties" that other schools have would be a "group run" at The Point.
West Point is a school to teach you how to serve your country. While you do not pay in monetary terms for this education, you are dedicating at least eight years of your life to this service. It is important to understand the value of your education at the academy before committing yourself to it.
Congratulations, Abigail. Thank you for your sense of duty, your honor, and for choosing to serve your country.