Early college high school student accepted to West Point
HOUSTON —How can you make a difference with just a picture frame and an alarm clock? Christal Theriot will find out when she begins her military officer training at the United States Military Academy at West Point this summer, armed with the only two personal possessions allowed to new cadets.
As a senior at Clear Horizons Early College High School (CHECHS) at San Jacinto College South, the 17-year-old credits much of her academic and personal success to the program.
“This program has truly changed my life,” said Theriot. “Clear Horizons has really shown me what I can do and helped to develop my academic mind. It’s given me a clear picture of the best version of myself, which will definitely help me as I go on to study at West Point.”
Theriot first became interested in the military as a sophomore in high school. She was drawn to the structural and disciplined lifestyle, as well as the opportunities to become a leader as a military officer. She joined the Civil Air Patrol at Ellington Field where she became emergency services certified, and volunteered to hand out food to people in Galveston who lost their homes after Hurricane Ike.
“The Civil Air Patrol not only teaches aerospace education, but they provide emergency services certification to student cadets, which enable them to help out in natural disasters, search and rescue, and other events. It’s a great way for the youth to be able to serve their communities locally,” she said.
As the first person in her family to enter the military, her parents were nervous at first. Since she will be entering a military academy, Theriot will be under contract to serve five years in the Army upon graduating from West Point. With the ongoing war in Afghanistan and spreading political uprisings in surrounding Middle East countries, her family naturally worried that their oldest daughter would be thrown right in the middle of it. While her education and career plans don’t involve heavy artillery, Theriot expressed a great sense of pride and readiness to serve wherever she is needed.
“I can’t wait to serve my country,” she said smiling. “When I went to see the campus, it just felt like I belong there; I was where I was supposed to be. I look forward to all the training we’ll receive and everything they’ll instill in us to become military officers.”
It’s not hard to see the impression she leaves on people. Former SJC director of dual enrollment and CHECHS liason, Pam Campbell, recalls Theriot’s assuredness even at a young age.
“From the moment she applied to Clear Horizons as a freshman, it was clear that she knew this was the best choice for her personally,” said Campbell, now assistant vice chancellor for educational partnerships at San Jacinto College. “Christal chose a rigorous high school experience because she had her eye on the prize- a mechanical engineering degree at a top college, and West Point was her first choice.”
Upon graduating this May, Theriot will earn her associate degree in mathematics along with her high school diploma, and plans to major in mechanical engineering at West Point. Although she will be spending her 18th birthday in basic training, she is confident that she can take on these new challenges through her experience at CHECHS.
“I’m more than prepared for what’s waiting for me. Clear Horizons has taken me so far; even if I tried thanking them a million times it wouldn’t be enough. Taking the education I’ve received at CHECHS and combining that with what I’ll get at West Point, I feel like I can be a part of advances in new technology. As an officer, I’ll be able to actually be a leader in innovation.”
Theriot leaves for West Point in June, and like anyone leaving home for the first time, doesn’t want to think about leaving family and friends behind just yet. For now she is enjoying the rest of her senior year, collecting memories to take with her as she prepares to begin the next chapter in her life.