Summer program is first step in education at U.S. Military Academy

By Jessica Beery • Last Updated 6:20 pm on Thursday, September 15, 2011

Courtesy photo

BELDING — A 2011 Belding High School graduate has completed the first step in his academic journey at prestigious United States Military Academy at West Point.
On Aug. 11, Zach Kunkle, 19, completed the six-week Cadet Basic Training course, considered the first step into the “47 month experience” at West Point.
“I learned many things,” said Kunkle, who most enjoyed firing heavy weapons in basic training.
Though graduating from basic training is itself a high honor, Kunkle plans to continue with his studies at West Point with a traditional college class schedule and military training at special schools during the summer months.
“We’re obviously very proud of what Zach has done,” Robert Kunkle said of his son’s accomplishments.

“Top notch” high schooler
Kunkle, the son of Robert Kunkle and Kristine Schalow, was born in Santa Cruz, Calif., but moved to Michigan at age 8. Homeschooled until eighth grade, Kunkle’s parents enrolled him in Belding Area Schools, where it didn’t take long for him to establish himself as a good student.
While in high school, he played varsity football and basketball and  was the president of the National Honor Society.
“I enjoyed school and did fairly well in it,” Kunkle said.
Belding Area Schools officials give Kunkle more credit for his accomplishments in Belding.
“He is a top-notch student who was also very involved in extracurricular activities,” said Superintendent Leslie Mount. “Zach worked very hard and took advantage of AP (advanced placement) classes.”

Lofty goal
This hard work didn’t go unnoticed while Kunkle considered what path he would like to take after high school. With above-and-beyond expectations for himself, he set his sights on one the most prestigious military academy — the United States Military Academy at West Point.
“I became interested in West Point around my freshman year when I overheard someone in my area being appointed there,” Kunkle said.
As a four-year institution, West Point only accepts about 1,100 students nationwide into its program.
“I believe the numbers speak for themselves on the difficulty of getting in,” Kunkle said.
Robert Kunkle said his son was the one who wanted to go to West Point, even though his family encouraged him to apply at other military academies to “improve his chances of receiving an appointment.”
“But he only wanted to apply to West Point because he felt it was the toughest,” Robert Kunkle said. “He was very motivated and confident through the entire application process. I know his mother and I have every confidence he will be very successful in his studies and career.”
The staff at Belding Area Schools couldn’t agree more.
“(Zach) is a fine example of where hard work can get you and (he) displays great leadership amongst his peers,” Mount said.

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