Joining the military wasn’t something 19-year-old Devon Hudson of South Decatur, Ind., dreamed of all his life. Rather, it was a revelation that came to him during his sophomore year of high school.
“I took a military aptitude test, and my high school counselor was retired from the Navy,” Hudson says. “He suggested a military career, and I was looking for the best education possible. That led me to West Point.”
West Point Bound
After completing a rigorous and highly competitive application process, Devon was accepted to the world-renowned United States Military Academy at West Point in New York. He joined West Point’s Corps of Cadets, a student body of about 4,400, in fall 2011 after graduating from South Decatur High School in May and attending six weeks of basic training in the summer.
“A military choice for college came as a surprise to both Devon’s mother and me,” says Don Hudson, Devon’s father and FFA advisor at South Decatur High School. “In his graduation speech, he mentioned that the events of Sept. 11 played a key role in his decision to apply to West Point even though he was just in elementary school when it happened.”
Devon has two cousins who serve in the Army, but he is the first in his family to attend West Point. Upon graduation, Devon will be an officer in the Army and will be required to serve at least five years active duty.
“West Point is a great place to be – there’s a guaranteed job right out of college, and school is completely paid for,” Devon says. “But it’s a very big commitment both physically and academically. You have to have your heart set on it and realize that as soon as you enter West Point, you are in the Army.”
“You have to have your heart set on it and realize that as soon as you enter West Point, you are in the Army.”
Devon’s FFA Involvement
Many of the time management and leadership skills Devon learned through FFA and other high school activities have helped him transition smoothly into West Point.
“FFA promotes leadership and personal growth, and so does West Point,” he says. “At West Point, they often set you up in leadership positions, and FFA does the same thing, so it was great to develop those skills in high school.”
Devon’s high school FFA projects included running a woodcutting business and a turf management project where he mowed a three-acre cemetery.
“A friend of our family has 70 acres of wooded ground, so I harvested and sold firewood to local customers,” he says. “At the cemetery, I was contracted to take care of the grounds since my freshman year of high school.”
Devon also played football, basketball and baseball, which helped him gain the physical skills West Point requires.
“In addition to military classes and general education courses like math, English, foreign language and history, West Point is big on physical fitness,” Devon says. “We have required military movement, gymnastics and boxing classes. And every cadet has to be involved in some sport.”
To other FFA members considering applying to West Point, Devon recommends taking on leadership roles where you serve other people.
“If you love being a leader, West Point is perfect because you train to be a future leader of the Army,” he says. “They like to see leadership roles on your application – not only that you were on the football team, but you were captain of the football team. And not only that you were in FFA, but you were an officer. West Point is also very tough academically, so be on top of your grades.”
A Real Team Player
Devon’s dad says FFA helped Devon learn to be dedicated to any team he was part of.
“Whether it was meeting before school for FFA, choosing extemporaneous public speaking and parliamentary procedure for his leadership contests, or being a top citrus sales person for three years, Devon was all in,” Don Hudson says. “As a seventh-grader, he wanted to coach our FFA basketball team, and all 4-foot, 6-inches of him showed up in a pair of dark shades and a T-shirt that read ‘Respect My Authority.’ His mother and I feel an overwhelming sense of pride for Devon and his sense of duty and service to his country.”
After West Point, Devon plans to serve the required five years active duty and explore all the options the Army offers.
“The Army has lots of branches you can go into, so I may make a lifetime career of it,” he says. “I can’t think of anything better than serving our nation.”
Thinking about applying to West Point?
The Hudsons offer these tips to give it your best shot:
1. Check with your counselor or get online and find out as much as you can about the West Point admissions process.
2. Take advantage of community leaders in your area. They know the right people to put you in contact with.
3. Strive to do your best in every activity. View each task as something worthy of your full effort.
4. Start early on your application process, and try to attend the West Point Summer Leadership Seminar before your senior year.
5. Be self-disciplined. West Point looks for individuals who make the right decision, even when it may not be the popular decision.
– Jessica Mozo