195 Air Force Academy preparatory school cadet candidates graduate, overcome COVID-19

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Seth Stang
  • U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. – Scores of family members, friends and faculty wearing face masks celebrated the graduation of dozens of Air Force Academy Preparatory School cadet candidates, May 12.

The prep school offers a select group of young men, women and some enlisted men and women a path to admittance to the Academy, and provides a rigorous 10-month program centering on academic, leadership, and physical skills to prepare them for success as Academy cadets.

Graduation from the prep school does not guarantee appointment to the Academy, but cadet candidates earn consideration and a recommendation from the prep school commander if they successfully complete the program.

Lt. Gen. Richard Clark, the Academy’s superintendent and the graduation ceremony’s keynote speaker, said the event marks a milestone in the lives of the cadet candidates.

“You have shown a kind of drive and determination to join our cadet wing that we’ve never seen before in our history,” he said. “This is the first class to come here for a year to the prep school and willingly face the challenges of a global pandemic. You knew what you were getting yourself into, but you wanted to be part of this team and our important mission bad enough to take on an extra year under some incredibly difficult circumstances.”

In all, 195 cadet candidates graduated from the prep school. 

“Our Cadet Candidates not only persevered, but thrived, despite the challenges associated with the pandemic,” said Col. Melissa Youdarian, the prep school’s commander. “The preparatory school staff adjusted how we execute academics, athletics and military training to ensure we maintained a challenging, but safe environment. Our cadet candidates stepped up to the challenges of the preparatory school and I am so proud of how much they have grown in the past 10 months.”

Award Winners

  • Savannah Elllis, overall outstanding cadet candidate
  • Roland Ocampo, outstanding cadet candidate in academics
  • Mekayla Dedo, outstanding female cadet candidate in athletics
  • Ethan Taylor, outstanding male cadet candidate in athletics
  • Ryan Garrison, outstanding cadet candidate in military training
  • Joseph Tschetter, outstanding cadet candidate in character development

“I am so excited to see what comes next for this diverse and talented class of cadet candidates,” Youdarian said. “While at the preparatory school, they learned their potential is only limited by their belief in themselves. I think through various opportunities that challenged their comfort zones, the cadet candidates learned they can do more than they ever thought possible and they are walking away with confidence in themselves and one another.”