Kendall Smith was in middle school when he realized he wanted to be like his father.
William Smith was in the Marine Corps, and young Kendall liked the idea of serving his country just like his father.
“My dad being a retired Marine, I knew I wanted to follow in his footsteps,” Kendall Smith said. “I thought the service academies would be the best way to do so.”
Smith officially accepted an appointment to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., during the Havelock High Academic Awards Ceremony on May 27 at the school’s Performing Arts Center.
Col. Chip Stine presented the graduating senior with the scholarship valued at $414,000, noting that just 1,200 of more than 9,000 applicants receive appointments to the Air Force Academy.
“It’s definitely a great feeling knowing that I’m going to receive such an awesome education and I’ll be among the best of the best,” Smith said. “I’ll have a guaranteed job after school and all of the incredible opportunities I’ll be able to take advantage of while I’m there, it’s really incredible. I’m really excited.”
Smith thanked his parents, Stacey and William Smith, for their support, and noted his father’s inspiration.
“He told me that his dream in high school was to go to the Air Force Academy, and he’s really proud of me for achieving more than he can ever imagine,” Smith said. “It’s really cool to be able to make him proud.”
He said he and his father have always been fans of flying, making the Air Force Academy appointment even more special.
“My dad has always been involved in aviation,” Smith said. “Growing up, we would go out and rent private planes in New Bern and Beaufort. I love it. Aviation is incredible.”
He hopes that after completing his four years at the academy that he will begin training to become a pilot. But he’s not so concerned with piloting any particular aircraft. He just wants to fly.
“I’ll take whatever they give me,” he said. “I won’t be too picky.”
The first year at any service academy can sometimes be tough as the first-year students usually have to endure some difficult lessons from the upperclassmen. But Smith said he had a plan.
“I am hoping it goes smoothly,” he said of his freshman year. “I just have to stay under the radar and try not to stick out so I don’t get picked on too much. I just have to stay motivated and persevere.”
During high school, Smith played on the lacrosse team and also participated on the swim team. He was also a member of the band among his activities.
He becomes the third straight Havelock High graduate in as many years to accept an appointment to a military academy. Last year, Joseph Whitley received an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. In 2012, Scott Whitley received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
“Being in a military area, there are more students dedicated to the service,” Smith said. “But it speaks volumes about the teachers and what they put in for the students for us to be able to achieve what we have. It’s awesome knowing that there are other people in Havelock who are at service academies or have graduated from service academies, and that I’m able to join the elite few, it’s awesome.”
Kendall Smith will join more than 200 of his classmates for Havelock High’s graduation ceremony beginning at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday at the school’s football field. Though he’s looking forward to the day, he’s also looking forward to the day he steps foot on the Air Force Academy campus to begin his college years.
“I can’t wait to be there and explore new places,” he said. “I’ve never been farther west than Texas. Colorado is definitely going to be an experience. I’m excited.”