The best students leave a legacy of achievement at their schools. Antonio Avellaneda-Ruiz is taking that notion many steps further, blazing a new trail for others to follow at American High School in Northwest Miami-Dade County.
“I want to be known as somebody who defended this nation as best as he could and he wanted to, not because he had to, he wanted to,” Antonio said. “The United States isn’t perfect, I accept that, that’s fine, but I want to defend what is right about this country.”
Antonio is the first student at American High to receive an appointment to the United States Military Academy, better known as West Point, in the school’s 41-year history.
“It’s humbling, it’s one of those things that people don’t understand the road that you had to go to, west point, I don’t want to say it was a lonely road, but no one else in this school took it,” Antonio said.
Prodded by his Cuban-immigrant grandfather and by his dad, also an alumnus of American High, Antonio decided in freshman year that Army was his dream school, so he loaded up on leadership credentials. He joined and led several school clubs and became battalion commander of his school’s JROTC unit, all with West Point’s 7 percent acceptance rate in mind. That’s comparable to many of the nation’s elite universities, equal to the acceptance rates at Yale, Princeton, and Columbia.
“Everything that I did was not only for myself because I did want to do those things, but it was also to show west point, you’re picking the right guy, you’re picking the right cadet,” Antonio explained. “I set goals, what do I need to do, what’s my checklist, and what are my odds? I saw it was 7%, I wanted to be one of that 7 percent.”
Antonio realized early on that to reach his goal of getting into West Point, he would have to excel academically as well. So he set out to take a challenging course load, and he’s graduating in the top 5% of his class.
“I have one elective, and it’s jrotc, my military class, I’m taking 3 ap classes, the rest are honors or dual enrollment, and I have no problem with that, I want to learn, I really enjoy school,” Antonio said.
Along the way he has dazzled the faculty at American, including his AP English teacher, Terri Simpson.
“His peers look up to him and he is not afraid to step up, take charge, and be someone who is inspirational,” Simpson said.
Those impressed peers include his younger sister, a sophomore at American.
“I couldn’t be any happier to be honest, not only because he’s getting out of the house,” laughed Samantha Avellaneda-Ruiz, “But because he’s been working for that for four or five years now and for that to finally be accomplished is huge, it’s nice having a role modle like that.”
“He’s inspired a lot of people, I know a lot of people that have taken him as a role model, that want to be like him, people that copy everything he does,” said Antonio’s best friend, Otniel Echagarruga.
So what does Antonio plan to do at West Point? He wants to use his math skills to study military logistics and planning.
“I want to graduate top 5 percent, I did it here, I want to do it at west point, I want to prove that I can be one of the best,” Antonio said.
From a place called American High to West Point, it seems like a perfect fit.