Clear Spring's 2007 Valedictorian heads for Air Force Academy

June 29, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

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CLEAR SPRING - Growing up, Nick Smith said he would modify paper airplanes to make them faster and better. Now a teenager, he's working with electronics and car engines.

Nick left Wednesday for the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he will pursue his passion for flying and an engineering degree.

Nick, 17, graduated from Clear Spring High School this year as the school's valedictorian. He'll participate in basic training at the campus in Colorado Springs, Colo., until August when his academic classes will begin.


"Flying has always been one of my passions," he said.

Nick said he always was interested in enlisting in the military, and said initially he was interested in attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

But he decided he didn't want to be a "grunt," and said he doesn't want to be on a boat for a long time.

"The Air Force is known as the smart branch," Nick said.

He has until his junior year to declare a major and said he's settled on a bachelor's of science degree in either aerospace engineering or chemical engineering.

"I've always liked to tinker with things and improve things," he said. "And that's what you do as an engineer."

Nick said he's always excelled at math and science, and rarely has to study. His favorite subject is calculus.

"I really like that you can get a definite answer to anything," he said. "That's just how my brain works."

Nick was president of the National Honor Society at Clear Spring, where he won many academic awards.

He also was active in the Civil Air Patrol, which is the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary, for nearly seven years.

Nick said he only applied to the U.S. Air Force Academy and the New Mexico Military Institute, but was offered scholarships to other universities.

His family is supportive of his decision to attend the academy, but wishes Nick wasn't moving so far away. His parents are Donald and Kendra Smith, and Nick has a brother, Brandon, 15, and a sister, Chelsea, 14.

In exchange for his education, he's required to give the Air Force at least five years of service. After receiving his degree, Nick said he'd like to go to graduate school or pilot training. Both are competitive programs.

"I'm not going to make an entire career out of it, but I'm not going to do the bare minimum either," he said.

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