NEW YORK (TIP): It has been a long road from the small village in India where her parents were born, and her life began, but immigrating to the United States of America, becoming a naturalized American citizen, and on the cusp of becoming, perhaps, the first generation Indian woman cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point, in the Academy’s prestigious 211-year history, is a “dream come true”, for a 18 year old Avon, Connecticut young lady.
Sneha Singh, daughter of Amar Singh of Avon, is proof that hard work, discipline, a positive mental attitude, and remaining patient and focused, can result in turning dreams into reality. Sneha, a 2013 Avon High School graduate, will enter the prestigious United States Military Academy at West Point, on July 1st. Sneha will begin a 47 month odyssey that will culminate with a Bachelor of Science degree and a commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Army.
Sneha hopes to pursue her dream of becoming a medical doctor and plans to study in a major that will prepare her for applying to medical school. Sneha’s appointment, by the directorate of admissions board at West Point, on behalf of the President of the United States, culminated a long journey, beginning in Sneha’s junior year of high school when she officially opened an admissions file at West Point.
A turning point for Sneha was attending the West Point Summer Leadership Experience, a “one week” summer program that West Point offers to the top high school juniors in the country. During that experience, Sneha was able to experience “first hand”, Army life. She rose at 5am for physical training, marched to all of her activities, wore a uniform, communicated with her leadership utilizing military protocol, and experienced basic military training (which included a land obstacle course, an introduction to combatives; a form of military wrestling, and firing the Army M4 rifle in a laser simulation center).
Sneha also had the opportunity to attend academic classes, social functions, participate in group sports, and at the conclusion of the seminar, be honored in a formal graduation ceremony. The bonds that Sneha formed with her fellow teammates enhanced her desire to serve her country. West Point Field Force Admissions representative major Nancy Bates, who is also a West Point graduate, met with Sneha and her parents during the admissions process and served as a mentor during Sneha’s candidacy.
Major Bates explained the characteristics that West Point seeks in cadet candidates and why Sneha was such an exceptional young lady and pleasure to work with: “West Point evaluates each candidate utilizing a “whole person” concept. Over 15,400 young men and women applied during this past admission cycle, but in a typical year, only approximately 1,200 will ultimately be offered admission.
Of those 1,200 candidates, approximately 200 will be women. It is a VERY competitive process. Each candidate offered admission must receive a nomination from his/her member of Congress, or a Presidential nomination (for service related candidates). Sneha received a nomination, last fall, from both United States Senator Joseph Lieberman and Connecticut 5th District Congressman Christopher Murphy.
The nomination process involved submitting an extensive application package and a formal panel interview. In addition to each candidate receiving a Congressional or Presidential nomination, they must be qualified academically, medically and pass a rigorous candidate fitness assessment. Furthermore, each candidate must demonstrate leadership skills, through clubs, teams or organizations where they lead, as well as follow.
Finally, each offered candidate must successfully pass a background investigation through law enforcement. In essence,West Point strives to identify candidates that are well rounded, given the difficulty and challenges of the West Point experience.West Point cadets must possess strength of body, strength of mind, and strength of character. Sneha particularly impressed me, not only because of her diverse and accomplished background, but her humble upbringing, maturity, dynamic and personable nature, infectious enthusiasm and positive mental attitude.
Some candidates may be a “fit” for West Point, in terms of their background, but may not “fit in”, in terms of melding with the unique environment. After working with Sneha, I have absolutely no reservation that she will thrive at the academy.” Academically, Sneha was a top tier graduate in her 2013 high school graduating class, a National Honor Society member, and aggressively mastered Advanced Placement (college level) courses in Calculus, Statistics, Physics, Literature and Latin.
Athletically, Sneha was the team captain of her high school track team and also received several varsity letters. She was also a member of her high school marching and Jazz band. Her leadership accomplishments included being a delegate to Girls State, and serving in class leadership and officer positions in various school clubs. In her spare time, Sneha volunteered within her community and was actively involved in figure skating.
Her outside interests include classical piano, writing short stories, designing computer games, and spending time with friends. In her study of American history, Sneha drew inspiration from Eleanor Roosevelt, and her memorable quote “Believe in yourself. You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you stop to look fear in the face……You must do which you think you cannot do!” Despite these impressive accomplishments, receiving the appointment to West Point; a full scholarship valued at over several hundred thousand dollars, would not have been possible, without the leadership, love and guidance provided by her parents.
Sneha credits her father and mother with providing her the values, moral compass, work ethic and discipline, to enable her to achieve her dream. “It was my decision, and my decision alone, to attend the Academy and pursue a career as an Army Officer,” Sneha explains, “but without the love and support of my parents, I wouldn’t have reached this important milestone in my life.”
In accepting the West Point appointment, Sneha has committed the next 12 years of her life, in service to this country. Following her 4 years at the academy, Sneha will serve on active duty for a minimum of five years, and then an additional three years in a Reserve/National Guard unit. Sneha’s final few weeks before “R” Day (Reception Day) will be spent with family and friends, while continuing to prepare physically and mentally for the challenges she will face during Cadet Basic Training and plebe year (West Point’s freshman year).
In a few weeks, Sneha will grip hands with the members of the Long Gray Line, which came before her, but also leave a legacy for young women that choose to follow in her footsteps. Notable members of the Long Gray Line include military Generals such as: Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S Grant, George Custer, William Tecumseh Sherman, Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, John “Black Jack” Pershing, George S. Patton Jr., Dwight D Eisenhower, Matthew Ridgway, Douglas MacArthur, Omar Bradley, Henry “Hap” Arnold, Creighton Abrams, Alexander Haig, Maxwell Taylor, and H Norman Schwarzkopf.
Countless others, following military service, have had distinguished careers in business, medicine, law, sports, politics, and science. This includes 18 astronauts such as Frank Borman and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin; George Washington Goethals (architect of the Panama Canal) Robert McDonald (chairman and CEO of Proctor and Gamble), James Kimsey (Founder of America Online) Mike Krzyzewski (head men’s basketball coach at Duke) and Pete Dawkins (Heisman Trophy recipient and accomplished business executive).
Several graduates are members of Congress. What specific path Sneha Singh will travel over the next few decades has yet to be charted, but one thing remains certain as a chiseled stone….Sneha will succeed and her legacy as a future member of the Long Gray line will be remembered, and serve as a reminder that America is a beacon of hope and opportunity for immigrants from all corners of the earth.
ABOUT WEST POINT
Renowned as the world’s premier leader development institution, the United States Military Academy, America’s oldest Service Academy, founded in 1802, mission is “To educate, train and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, Country and prepared for a career of professional excellence and service to the Nation as an officer in the United States Army.” West Point accomplishes its mission by developing cadets intellectually, physically, ethically, spiritually and socially.
West Point is this nation’s oldest military installation and also is the nation’s oldest engineering school. West Point holds a prestigious national ranking of 70 Rhodes Scholars, 31Truman Scholars, 4th in the nation in Hertz Scholars, and 6th in the nation in Marshall Scholars.
Recent acknowledgements include Forbes pronouncing West Point as the “Best Public College or University in America for Undergraduate Education”, U.S. News and World Report proclaiming West Point the “Best Public Liberal Arts College in the Country”, and the Fifth best “Undergraduate Engineering Program”, and The Princeton Review designating the academy as one of the 100 Best Value Colleges, which included a “Top 10” ranking for, “Most to do on Campus”, “Most Accessible Professors” and “Best Classroom Experience”.
The academic program at West Point offers over 37 majors in the sciences and humanities with the average student classroom to professor ratio; 8:1. The athletic and club activities offered at the academy is the most diverse in the country, with over 150 clubs and NCAA sports to choose from. Every year, the academy boasts “All-Americans”, Conference Championships and NCAA appearances in a wide variety of sports and competitive club activities.
West Point can claim National Championships in recent years in women’s rugby, women’s and men’s boxing, orienteering, judo, pistol, women’s triathlon and team handball. Guided by its timeless motto; “Duty, Honor, Country”, West Point continues to prepare its graduates to serve as commissioned leaders of character in America’s 21st century Army.