Prep school graduates largest class ever

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- The Preparatory School graduated 200 cadet candidates during commencement exercises Monday in Arnold Hall. 

"It was the largest number of graduates in Prep School history and the most entering the Academy ever," said Prep School commander Col. Todd Zachary. 

The number of entering cadet candidates to the school last summer was 235. 

"They came together as a team early," Col. Zachary said of the class, noting the high degree of team spirit, expressed in such ways as homework help or being available when another was simply having a bad day. 

Those receiving appointments during graduation exercises will enter the Academy June 25 to begin cadet basic training with the Class of 2013. 

Prep School and Academy graduate Larry Funk, Class of 1968, spoke to the new graduates, parents and friends. 

Mr. Funk also served as the class' exemplar. 

The Vietnam veteran pilot addressed the issues of ego and ambition in relation to serving as Air Force officers. 

"Ego, like ambition, is a double-edged sword," he said. 

While good ego can translate to a can-do attitude in such areas as academics, he said ambition may get in the way of true service. 

"The pursuit of excellence is a lifestyle," he said and added service is not to serve an individual ego but to serve the values of honor, dignity and freedom. 

"Keep ambition and ego in perspective," he said. "Do not strive for acclaim. Accept rank or valor for what it is. It is your job." 

New Prep School grad Philip Daniel Adjanba eyed the Air Force as a career early in life. 

"I have wanted to be here since I was a toddler," he said. 

The resident of Charlotte, N.C., wants to become involved in flying, astronautical engineering and math. 

While at the Prep School, he enjoyed being involved in the Academy community by helping with the Academy Youth Center and Community Center Chapel. He credits his sponsors, retired Col. and Mrs. Mark Fitzgerald, for his involvement. 

Wisconsin residents James and Tricia Kons traveled to see their son graduate. 

"I am really very excited," Mr. Kons said. "For him to come from Wisconsin to come to this Academy is incredible." 

Jason has played football as an outside lineman. 

"It was a good experience," graduate Ariel Miller said. 

It was her first time being away from home for any length of time. Having a good squadron for support helped a lot. 

The Louisville, Ky., resident wants to major in physics with a goal toward research. 

"The Air Force has lots of opportunities in that area," she said. 

The highlight of former Cadet Candidate Miller's Prep School stay was the transition exercise just prior to graduation. 

"I was really glad I went through it. It was something to remember," she said. 

The transition exercise for grad Philip Brown was the toughest part of his Prep School experience. 

"It challenged me like I've never been challenged before," he said. "It was the most difficult week of my life." 

He would like to major in English as a cadet. 

Prior to the presentation of diplomas and appointments, the Prep School honored its top achievers for the year. 

The top performers for academics were Amanda Rodriguez for English, David Salinas for math, Ryan Aceves for science and Kim Cory for best overall in academics. 

Hannah Bergstrom was honored as top performer in military training and Andrew Kacura-Miller for character development. Ilma Calite received top honors as female athlete and Matthew Underwood as top male athlete. Cole VonOhlen was honored as overall outstanding athlete. 

The overall top performing cadet candidate is Scott Rice. 

Prior to the graduation parade on Black Field, the Blue 7 and Silver 8 elements were named top performers during the transition exercise. Each element was composed of 10 members, drawn from each of the three squadrons. 

Also prior to the parade, Alan Willoughby received the Col. Lee Black Award, named for the founder and first commander of the Prep School. 

In-processing for the incoming Prep School class is June 15. 

"We're ready, set, go, for the next one," Colonel Zachary said.