Mendoza School of Business

From the South Bronx to West Point

Published: November 2, 2010

When it comes to our nation’s future, millions of us will be glued to our television screens looking for clues from the election results. Not Roberto Huie. When it comes to America’s future, this high school senior already knows his part: as a member of the West Point Class of 2015.

Mr. Huie may not be the kind of kid you think of when you think of our military academies. Part Latino, part African-American, he lives in a South Bronx neighborhood that belongs to the poorest congressional district in the nation. Nevertheless, he has two big things going for him: a mom raising him to be a man—and an all-boys public school teaching him what it means to be a leader.

All that converged yesterday morning on the second floor of the Eagle Academy for Young Men in the Bronx. There 50 of Mr. Huie’s peers, drawn from the school’s highest-performing students, were seated for what they—and Mr. Huie—all assumed would be another presentation from another college rep. Instead, they watched, captivated, as Army Maj. Michael Burns presented Mr. Huie with a letter from the superintendent of the United States Military Academy congratulating him on his appointment.

For most American kids, it would be an extraordinary opportunity. For kids like these Eagles, it can be a life-changer. The tragedy is that many of those who stand to benefit most from an ROTC scholarship or an appointment to a service academy have never even thought of the military.

Maj. Burns—an African-American West Point alum and U.S. Army pilot who has seen combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan—says there are definitely “some misconceptions and misimpressions” that hurt the Army in the minority community. He notes that these misconceptions are sometimes reflected in the corps of cadets. Last year, he says, West Point had only two minority cadets from all of New York City. The year before that it was zero.

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