KAPA‘A — Kristel Q. Guino is headed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
The appointment is to the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School, where Guino will join approximately 240 other carefully selected cadet candidates as the Class of 2013. It is designed to prepare them for the academic, physical and military challenges of West Point.
“I think I’m prepared, but not as much as they want me to be,” Guino said. “It is really tough to get in. They want somebody who is well-rounded with good character, confidence and leadership skills to make decisions.”
Upon successful completion of the year-long curriculum, the 18-year-old Kapa‘a High School senior would likely be appointed to the West Point Class of 2017. About 1,300 cadets start West Point each year, and about 1,000 of them graduate four years later.
“I was really nervous because I knew it would be competitive,” Guino said. “I was so happy when I got the offer,” she said.
Guino is the daughter of Delores and Ronnie Sta. Monica. She was raised in the Wailua Homesteads with her two elder sisters.
“My family has been supportive of me and they are excited as well,” she said.
Guino is a member of the Student Council, National Honor Society and Interact Club. She participated in paddling, cheerleading and on the air rifle team, and is involved with her church youth ministry.
Guino is currently the battalion commander of her Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps. She holds the rank of lieutenant colonel and commands two companies composed of 92 cadets.
Recognized as a motivated freshman with leadership potential, Guino said she had to maintain a 3.0 GPA. She said leadership qualities are also developed through group activities and community service.
“Yes, definitely, I was influenced by the JROTC program to actually join the Army,” she said. “There are so many things that JROTC has to offer,” she added.
Along with several community service opportunities, she said JROTC offers trips, an adventure program, and training on a level that is separate from school activities. She said the self-confidence and leadership skills learned are not about yelling at people, but about giving respect and winning it by example.
U.S. Army Lt. Col. (Ret) Robert Levoit encouraged Guino to consider West Point as “a good fit” for the Academy. He is the West Point Field Force volunteer and JROTC Senior Army Instructor at Kapa‘a High School.
The process begins with an application to West Point itself. It was accompanied with letters of recommendation from teachers, coaches, Levoit, and U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawai‘i.
The recommendations, along with Guino’s physical fitness and leadership skills, made the difference, Levoit said.
“That is why West Point said she is a great candidate for the Prep School,” Levoit said.
When the selection committee identifies outstanding candidates with SAT scores that don’t compete, they are offered a spot at the Prep Academy. They study a curriculum with a focus on improving math and English skills for the SAT from July through May.
The West Point selection committee tracks student progress through diagnostics tests to show improvement. Upon completion the committee reviews scores and recommendations.
Levoit is a West Point graduate himself with the 1978 class. He returned to teach at the Academy from 1985 to 1988.
After retiring from the Army in 1998, Levoit began working as a West Point Field Force Representative. He came to Kaua‘i from Indiana about year ago.
Levoit said a retired lieutenant colonel motivated him and helped with his application to the Academy. “I figured that I am repaying society by helping other high schoolers get into West Point,” he said.
Each year, Levoit visits nine Kaua‘i schools to talk about West Point. He is currently working closely with about 25 possible Academy applicants.
This year he said there are 11 service academy appointments from Hawai‘i, and nine of them are to West Point. Two of them are to academy prep schools.
“That is what I do on the island,” he said. “I am the Kaua‘i representative. I go to every high school and make a presentation and facilitate the application process. That is what I did with Kristel.”
West High School graduate Kyle Fleming signed a letter of intent to attend West Point in February. He was recruited as a football player.
Guino said that right now her goal is to serve her country. She said the experience will help her to make lifelong career choices in and out of the service.
• Tom LaVenture, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or tlaventure@ thegardenisland.com.