Edna Senior selected for West Point
By Michael Brooks
When graduation approaches, high school seniors have to make a decision on what the next step is. Some have known for years and will immediately go into the job field they want. Others choose college and work toward getting a degree.
For Edna High School senior Hunter Howell, his pursuit is much more grand than most. Howell was accepted to The United States Military Academy West Point.
Howell was actually set on going to a Texas college but a trip to a college fair changed his mind.
“My junior year I was attending a college fair in El Campo,” Howell said. “At this fair I talked to almost every school there, but one stuck out to me and that school was West Point. There was this man there at the booth and I talked to him for the majority of my time there. I had always known of West Point and thought it was a cool place, however my plan was to attend Texas Tech University.”
That would change the following year when Howell had to make a firm decision on his choice of colleges.
“At the start of my senior year, I was cleaning my room after applying to Texas Tech and I was about to throw away a stack of college information pamphlets,” Howell said. “I looked through the stack and saw the West Point informational paper I had received at the college fair. As I began to read this brochure, something inside me stirred and I thought why not.
“I then talked to my parents about it, and they felt the same. I figured I can try and if I don’t make it I’ll go to Tech.”
Once the decision was made, Howell had to apply but gaining admission to West Point is no easy task. Every applicant must go through several steps in order to even be considered for acceptance.
In 2018 West Point released the numbers that show how difficult it is for someone to be accepted. In the application period in the study, West Point had 12,294 applicants. 8,919 men and 3,375 women. Of those, 4,005 (3,016 and 989 respectively) were nominated by their state Congressman or Senator. Of that number 2,228 (1,721 and 507) qualified academically and in physical aptitude. And of those 2,228, a total of 1,210 (918 and 292) were admitted.
Wikipedia states that notable West Point graduates include two American Presidents, four additional heads of state, 20 astronauts, 74 Medal of Honor recipients, 70 Rhodes Scholars and three Heisman Trophy winners.
Step one is filling out the paperwork which includes essays and questionnaires.
Once Howell got the paperwork finished he had to deal with possibly the toughest requirement: getting a nomination.
“Next, I had to earn a Congressional or senator’s nomination from either my representative or Senator, which is not that simple either,” Howell continued. “Applying for these nominations was like applying to a college. In December, I was asked to partake in an online interview for U.S. Congressman Michael Cloud, which included five representatives from the Army, Air Force and Coast Guard. Rep. Cloud gave me his nomination for the United States Military Academy, and I felt extremely honored. This was probably my proudest accomplishment to this day.”
The next step in the application process was to be physically qualified.
“In order to become physically qualified I had to partake in the Candidate Fitness Assessment,” Howell Continued. “I asked Coach Jill Koop, a certified P.E. teacher at Edna High School to give me the exam. I had to do pullups, pushups, sit-ups, a mile run, a shuttle run, and a basketball throw. I had to do all of these with five minute breaks in between each activity. Some of it had to be recorded and uploaded to the portal.”
The portal was the mode of communication between Howell and West Point.
After completing the physical part of the exam, Howell had to have a medical survey done, which ensured Howell had no medical problems. Then he had to travel to Corpus Christi to get an medical examination as well as an eye examination.
The portal was constantly filled with new things Howell had to do, while working around his extracurricular high school activities.
“The portal is what West Point uses to track all my information for admissions,” Howell explained. “After a long day of baseball and working on my Ag Mech project, I would come home and my mom would tell me to get out my computer because I had things to do.”
Then Howell got a scare. After doing everything West Point had asked of him, he found his portal closed.
“At one point, I almost did not get a chance to go to West Point because my portal closed. I was so confused and lost because my Congressional Nomination had just come in the mail. The portal showed that a few teacher evaluations were not reviewed. I thought that there was no way that three of my favorite teachers would just not submit their evaluations of me.
“So, I called the Head of Admissions at West Point for the Southwest Division, MAJ Stephen Gilbert, and he reopened my portal and their evaluations went through. The door had been slammed in my face and I had to pry it back open by calling my way up the chain of command at the Admissions Office. Without MAJ Gilbert’s help, I would not be attending West Point.”
After running ragged, trying to make sure to do everything West Point needed him to do, Howell got some disappointing news.
“In March, I had an online interview with a West Point representative. A few weeks later, I got a letter saying that I was qualified for West Point physically, academically, and medically, but had not been accepted at this time for an appointment. Then a few days later, I received a letter that I was put on a wait list.”
With West Point seeming like it wasn’t going to happen, Howell fell back on his original plan of Texas Tech.
“About two weeks on the wait list went by and I had already planned out my next four years at Texas Tech,” Howell continued. “Then while I was at school on April 30th, I received a call from New York. It was MAJ Gilbert. He wanted to offer me a spot in the class of 2025 at West Point. I had one day to accept or decline the offer.”
And suddenly. West Point was back on the table, but Howell had to make a decision quickly.
“The feeling of pure excitement did not last long, because now I had to make a decision in a day. I thought and prayed for hours on end. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that the offer was too good to pass up.”
With graduation in a few days, and Howell heading to New York shortly, things will be changing quickly.
“I am excited to start the next chapter of my life in New York. I am a little bit nervous about leaving my home state for the next four years, however, I believe this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am honored to be chosen for this. I hope I can make my family proud and I plan to leave my mark on history.”
Upon graduating, Howell will be comissioned as a Second Lieutenant and will be required to serve five years active duty and three years reserve duty.
"I am looking forward to giving back to the county that has done so much for my family and I," Howell said.