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Shelby Grant receives recommendations for West Point Academy

By Alyssa Nenemay

Shelby Grant is member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes and senior at Ronan High School. (Courtesy Photo) Shelby Grant is member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes and senior at Ronan High School. (Courtesy Photo)

RONAN — Ronan High School senior Shelby Grant has received three letters of recommendation from state officials to attend the United States Military Academy West Point, which is located just outside of New York City.

West Point is a collegiate academy that trains and educates its students to become military officers while earning their Bachelor of Science degrees. The program emphasizes academic, military, and physical training. Graduates are commissioned as second lieutenants in the US Army. “I really want to do something great. Get out of here and see the world,” said Grant.

Ranking above Ivy League universities Harvard and Yale, West Point is number three on Forbe’s “America’s Top Colleges” list. Enrollment in the program is very meticulous and Grant has been spending a great deal of time preparing for the application process.

One of the requirements for West Point is an above average academic record. Grant ranks number five in his senior class, he’s in the National Honor’s Society, and maintains a schedule of courses that include Advance Placement (AP) Chemistry, Calculus, and English.

Another requirement for the program is participation in extra curricular activities. Grant is Vice-President of his student body and is on the Indian education committee. He also plays an array of sports including wrestling, of which he was captain for two years and football.

Waking up at five in the morning each day and maintaining a packed schedule, Grant said there are sacrifices to making his dreams a reality. “I don’t have a lot of free time. It gets stressful a lot. Sometimes it feels like I’m not doing anything…not living. But the reward has been that I’m doing something with my life.”

Grant (Top left) hopes to pursue an education at the prestigious West Point military academy. Grant has attended summer leadership seminars to get an understanding of campus life. (Courtesy Photo) Grant (Top left) hopes to pursue an education at the prestigious West Point military academy. Grant has attended summer leadership seminars to get an understanding of campus life. (Courtesy Photo)

Grant’s uncommonly early understanding for the value of life comes from great loss, his mother Deana Streets passed away when he was 11-years-old. With the help of his grand parents, Grant’s father Lee became his sole parent until meeting his stepmother Roberta Asencio. “My mom’s death made me realize that life is short,” he said.

Aside from the loss of his mother, Grant overcame physical impairments in order to succeed. As a young boy, he had eye problems that required surgery; he had speech problems, and asthma. Today Grant only requires reading glasses, through the help of a Head Start tutor he no longer has speech impairments, and he hasn’t required medication for his asthma in years.

“Once he got over the small stuff he started reading all the time and pretty soon he was top of his class,” recalled Grant’s father Lee. “He learned early on that if he wanted something in life it wasn’t going to be a given he was going to have to work for it.”

Grant originally planned to join the military right out of high school but his parents wouldn’t allow it. Lee joined the Air Force when he was 17 and served as a security police officer for four years. He worked on a Desert Shield base. “I don’t want him to start at the bottom like I did there’s no future in the bottom. You’re on minimum wage, you’re at their beck and call, and there’s a higher rate of alcoholism,” he said.

Grant joins his family in a senior night ceremony for Ronan High School football.  “I don’t get to see them very often because of my busy schedule,” he says. (Courtesy Photo) Grant joins his family in a senior night ceremony for Ronan High School football. “I don’t get to see them very often because of my busy schedule,” he says. (Courtesy Photo)

Not to be discouraged, Grant began researching the educational opportunities available within the military and on his own initiative he applied for and attended summer leadership seminars at an Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and West Point in New York.

“I went and saw (the West Point campus) this summer. I really loved the campus and all the people that were there. I did research online and I found out that they offered the seminar class and I signed up. I didn’t even tell (my parents) until after I got accepted.”

Grant has been working to meet the rigorous application requirements for West Point. Most recently he has received the required letters of recommendation from state level officials. Grant has received letters from Governor Brian Schweitzer, Senator Jon Tester, and Senator Max Baucus.

“I just want him to do whatever makes him happy,” said Grant’s stepmother Roberta. “I just know Shelby’s going to be something great. I hope that his story will let other Native American boys see what they could accomplish.”

Grant is anticipating graduation in the spring and said he will find out if he was accepted by this summer. If he doesn’t get accepted, Grant plans to attend college to pursue a degree in Physics or Political Science.

“You just have to set your goals really high and work towards something. I read a quote somewhere that stuck with me: ‘If your goals don’t scare you, they’re not big enough,” he said.

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