LA CENTER — They are focused on the next move. They know where they are headed. And they know exactly what it all means.
Jeffrey Mayolo and Megan Muffett each have the same mission.
To earn a degree.
To become an officer.
“It’s one of the most prestigious colleges in the nation. Once you’re there, you can feel the structure, the grit, how tough they are,” Mayolo said. “It’s everything I wanted to be.”
“After I met the people, I realized I wanted to be there,” Muffett said. “I wanted to become one of those people and stand for the things they stand for.”
Mayolo and Muffett, who are graduating from La Center High School on Saturday, have accepted appointments to the United States Military Academy.
It is quite the accomplishment for La Center High School, having two students from the same class on the way to West Point. More impressive is that once Mayolo and Muffett arrive at the academy there will be four La Center graduates there. Sean Nolan and Jeffrey’s older brother Patrick Mayolo will be third-year cadets.
“That says a lot about this town,” Muffett said. “It’s a great place. We have some great teachers here.”
Muffett and Jeffrey Mayolo took different paths to West Point. Once they arrive, they will be equals — plebs, as first-year cadets are referred to at the academy.
Campus life will certainly be different for them than, say, freshmen at Washington or Washington State. Yes, they will be college students, but they also will be in preparing to become officers in the U.S. Army. They will become soldiers. Summer breaks are shortened because those months are designated for military training.
La Center High School Class of 2017 Commencement
Sat., 7 p.m. at La Center High School, 725 NE Highland Ave., La Center
Not only will they be under strict rules as students, upon graduation there will be at least a five-year commitment to the service. Those who join the military realize there is an uncertain future. They understand the potential danger.
“That was one of the biggest things holding me back,” Muffett acknowledged.
“I thought maybe I couldn’t handle it. But I met them, and they all came in with the same thought process,” Muffett explained.
“After my visit, I definitely changed as a person,” she said. “I wasn’t really scared of things after that. I wanted to make the most of my life and try to do what I could for my country, my family, and my friends.”
Mayolo, too, was drawn to West Point out of a sense of duty. Becoming a soldier, an officer, was not in his plans until recent years. He is proud of his brother, and that family connection led him to reconsider his future.
“Over the last year, I’ve thought about it a lot. I’m not scared to be in harm’s way. I’m ready,” Mayolo said.
“Serving my country makes me happy. I have a lot of pride,” he added. “I can’t fully enjoy the freedom I have here unless I’m contributing to it.”
The Army will be getting two smart, motivated Wildcats, as well.
Muffett is the school’s valedictorian, after earning all A’s at La Center, with one A-minus.
“It felt like failure,” she said of that minus.
Mayolo is a salutatorian. Mayolo ended up with two A-minus marks.
“I was pretty frustrated,” he said.
Both exceptional students noted all of their teachers at La Center. One in particular, John Johnson, is credited for giving each student a passion for math. Muffett said she plans on going into engineering. Mayolo said he is looking into physics or engineering.
“This whole place has done a lot to teach me and make me what I am today,” Mayolo said.
“The people here have prepared us … for where we are headed next year,” Muffett said.
Of course she meant the next academic year. But there is not much time. Both cadets leave the Northwest to report to West Point in New York on July 1.
Athletics will remain part of college life, too.
Muffett, who helped the La Center softball team to a state championship as a junior and second place this spring, was recruited by the Black Knights. Mayolo, who finished second at state in his weight class as a senior, is expected to wrestle for Army.
“I’m like a recruited walk-on. She’s a recruited athlete,” Mayolo said.
Both still had to earn an appointment. Both had to prove they belonged.
There were essays followed by interviews. Physicals. Doctor appointments. The government is providing the education and wants to ensure students will be ready to begin the process of becoming officers, as well.
Mayolo received his acceptance letter in January but did not commit until March, until after he had a chance to visit.
“You really have to be there, experience West Point, to see if it’s the place for you,” he said.
Visiting the academy can be a life-changing experience for some.
“It makes you feel like you’re doing something cool, a part of something,” Mayolo said.
“I just remember being in awe,” she said.
In the years to come, it just might be the community of La Center that is in awe, inspired by a couple of Wildcats from the Class of 2017.