All Saints Episcopal School is proud to announce that a member of its 2020 graduating class has received a congressional appointment to the United States Military Academy (USMA) in West Point, New York.
Senior Samuel Foster Aycock was surprised by Congressman Jodey Arrington February 7 when Arrington phoned All Saints and asked to speak to Aycock to notify him that he had received an official appointment to West Point. Arrington, the U.S. Representative for Texas’ 19th Congressional District, said it is his privilege and honor to nominate outstanding students like Aycock into the military academies.
Aycock was startled when he was called out of class to go to the counselor’s office to receive a phone call from the congressman. After Arrington asked him a few application questions, Aycock was even more surprised when Arrington said, “Congratulations Sam! You are a West Point Cadet! Your mother said she found out she was pregnant with you right around 9/11 so you were born to be a freedom fighter.”
The congressman asked Aycock why he wanted to attend West Point. “It’s a great education first of all, and I really just want the opportunity to serve my country,” Aycock said. “I feel it’s my duty.”
Congressman Arrington’s staff videoed Arrington’s phone conversation while staff at All Saints videoed Aycock on the other end. The congressman’s staff then merged the two videos together to show their conversation and Aycock’s reaction. The video has aired on social media and is posted here also https://www.facebook.com/JodeyArrington/videos/497318077834021/UzpfSTEyMjU5MzgzMzU3NDoxMDE1NzA1OTM0OTgzMzU3NQ/.
Aycock is the first All Saints graduate to have received an appointment into a military academy and will be the first senior to wear the Honor Military Cords during All Saints’ graduation ceremony in May. Aycock enrolled in All Saints two years ago as a junior when his family moved from Shreveport, Louisiana. He is the son of Dr. Richard and Mrs. Emily Aycock. His sister, Emily, and brother, Owen, also attend All Saints.
Applying to a military academy seemed like the right thing to do to Aycock. “I love my country, and I have always considered military service. I believe that serving is a duty for me to fulfill,” he said.
He applied and was accepted into several other schools including Purdue University and School of Engineering, Texas A&M University and School of Engineering, Oklahoma State University and School of Engineering, and the US Military Academy at West Point. West Point was his first choice. Aycock plans to major in Chemical Engineering.
“I chose West Point because it is an incredible institution that would give me a great education, and it has one of the best engineering programs in the country,” Aycock said. “West Point also will provide me with leadership training that will help me excel in many different facets of life. I also want to serve my country, and feel that it is a duty that I must fulfill.”
Aycock contacted Congressman Arrington’s office last summer to begin the applications required for a congressional nomination into a military academy. Each congressman may nominate up to ten individuals for each vacant academy slot allotted to his or her district for admission into four of the five military academies: the U.S. Military Academy (USMA), West Point, New York; the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA), Annapolis, Maryland; the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA), Colorado Springs, Colorado; and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA), Kings Point, New York. The fifth service academy, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy (USCGA), New London, Connecticut does not require a congressional nomination for appointment.
“I began the application process in late June going into my senior year, which is a few months later than the optimal start,” he said. “While I wasn’t too far behind on the application process, I was still at a slight disadvantage because the West Point application process begins during the second semester of junior year. Because I started later than recommended, I had less time to train for my candidate fitness assessment (CFA), so I had to work extra hard to pass.”
He encourages other applicants to begin the application process sooner. “Start your preliminary application when it is available to you in the second semester of your junior year,” Aycock said. “It will be a lot less stressful and you won’t be as time-constrained. You also can start training for your fitness test now, and the earlier you start training, the better.”
“Sam Aycock is an extraordinary young man who is honorable, talented, intelligent and dedicated,” High School Counselor Gwen Belk said. “I was not surprised when he told me he intended to apply to West Point. The themes of duty, honor, and country truly reflect the heart of Sam Aycock’s character. The United States Military Academy is receiving a true patriot in Sam Aycock.”
West Point is probably the most well-known of the military academies but is also known for being the hardest to gain admission. A West Point cadetship includes a fully-funded four-year college education. The U.S. Army provides tuition, room, board, medical, and dental care. By law, graduates of West Point are appointed on active duty as commissioned officers and serve in the U.S. Army for a minimum of five years. Candidates for West Point are evaluated on academic performance, demonstrated leadership potential, and physical fitness. All are required to be U.S. citizens and between 17 and 23 years old. West Point cadets must be unmarried, not pregnant, and not under obligation to support any children.
“Sam is an incredibly talented and respectful young man who possesses many of the strong attributes of ‘duty, honor and character’ that remain foundational principles to students who are selected to attend West Point,” High School Division Head Tammy Edmonson said. “I know Sam will continue to have the same high expectations for himself as he completes college and serves his country. We are blessed to have Sam and his family as part of the All Saints community and are excited to see the path he will lead in the future!”
Aycock said the application process is not easy and requires a lot of time and dedication to complete.
“When I first started to apply, I had to fill out the preliminary application, called the Candidate Personal Data Record. The Candidate Personal Data Record consists of basic information about myself,” he said. “After I completed this, I submitted it to the admissions committee at West Point who reviewed it and allowed me to start the rest of my application.”
The main application consists of three medium-length essays, school official evaluations, and a list of extracurricular activities, and a fitness test. The Candidate Fitness Assessment (CFA) consists of a kneeling basketball throw, pull-ups, a forty-yard shuttle run, sit-ups, push-ups, and a one-mile run with short breaks between each event.
“The CFA is only worth about ten percent of the total application, but you must pass,” he said. “I trained very hard for this test, and I was very relieved when I found out that I had passed.”
In order to be accepted to West Point, applicants also have to be medically qualified by the Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board, which also includes an eye exam and physical exam.
“I also had to receive a nomination from a Member of Congress, as it is required by law that all who attend a service academy must have a nomination,” Aycock said. All citizens are eligible for four nominations which include both senators from the state which one resides, the representative from the district from which one resides, and the Vice President, although some applicants are eligible for more nominations.
“I filled out separate applications and applied to receive a nomination from Congressman Arrington, Senator Ted Cruz, Senator John Cornyn, and Vice President Mike Pence,” he said. “I received nominations from Senator Cornyn and Congressman Arrington, granting me eligibility to be accepted to West Point.” “Finally, I had an interview with my West Point liaison officer, who is a graduate of West Point. The West Point application process was extremely stressful but very worthwhile,” Aycock said.
Approximately 11,000 students apply for admission into West Point each year. Of those 11,000 applicants, West Point accepts 11.5 percent, which means for every 100 applicants 12 are accepted.
Approximately 1,300 cadets will enter West Point with Aycock in June to begin their academy experience. “I report to West Point on June 29th,” Aycock said. “The first day is known as Reception Day, and it is the beginning of an intense six-week training program, known as Beast, to transition new cadets from civilian life to military life.”
His high school division head believes Aycock will not have trouble transitioning to the rigors of West Point. “He has worked diligently in school and has been able to pursue many extra-curricular interests as well in high school due to his work ethic and the support of his parents, teachers, and mentors along the way,” Ms. Edmonson said.
West Point requires not only outstanding academic achievements and leadership qualities, but applicants must complete rigorous physical tests that are videotaped and submitted to West Point for evaluation. All Saints Counselor Gwen Belk, High School Division Head Tammy Edmonson, Athletic Director Robert Brashear, Track Coach Dino Jones along with many of his high school teachers worked with Aycock to ensure he completed the application requirements to the best of his abilities.
“Applying to West Point has been quite the rigorous process for Sam,” Aycock’s mother, Emily Aycock, said. “All Saints helped him day by day work his way through the many difficult steps it took to complete. I do not think the process would have been possible without the entire team of high school coaches, teachers, counseling and administration. You don’t think of having to do push-ups and pull-ups as a part of a college application, but the coaches prepared him physically during their free time for many months.”
Mrs. Aycock believes the dedication of the All Saints staff helped her son gain admission into West Point.
“The teachers went over and beyond getting letters of recommendations out in a timely manner and giving Sam the encouragement to finish his essays,” Mrs. Aycock said. “The door to the counselor’s office was always open for him anytime he had a question, needed to meet a deadline or just needed an encouraging smile. That door was the beginning of his future for Sam and our entire family will always be grateful.”
As a member of the 18 member Class of 2020 and All Saints fifth graduating class, Aycock received the Bausch and Lomb Honorary Science Award and third place in the Phi Beta Kappa High School Academic Achievement Award. He is vice president of All Saints’ Sherry Fewin Chapter of the National Honor Society. He competes on the school’s Cross Country and Track teams and received an All-State Award for Cross Country. Aycock also competes in numerous academic events at the TAPPS State Academic Competitions.
“Sam’s appointment to the United States Military Academy is an honor for the Aycock family, All Saints Episcopal School, and the greater Lubbock community,” All Saints Headmaster Bruce Latta said. “West Point is getting a young man of remarkable character, focus, and determination. Sam has many talents, and he will serve his country exceptionally well. We’re all very proud of him.”