NEW YORK — It didn’t take long for Kainalu Gandia to realize what he wanted to do once he got a taste of military life and training with Civil Air Patrol five years ago.
Now, a year removed from graduating from Kapaa High School, he is months away from fulfilling his dream of attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
“It’s been a dream I’ve wanted since I was a freshman in high school,” Gandia said. “I put in a lot of hard work prior to even coming to the prep school, working out physically and studying more on my own.”
Gandia is enrolled at the United States Preparatory School, which leads into enrollment at West Point. Gandia wasn’t able to enroll at West Point immediately after graduating high school because his test scores weren’t high enough, but he has completed the application, gotten his congressional nominations and is awaiting his acceptance letter expected to arrive in May.
“I’ve improved on everything academically here at the prep academy,” he said. “I really do believe the motto they have here, which is Desire, Faith and Effort. If you embody all three of these, you will succeed and make it to West Point.”
Among the nominations Gandia has received for his application was an endorsement from Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono.
“By applying to our nation’s service academies, Kainalu exemplifies service above self,” Hirono said in a release. “I am certain that Kainalu will represent Kauai and the state of Hawaii throughout the application process.”
When he reaches West Point, Gandia intends to major in mechanical engineering with the hopes of becoming a pilot assigned to a Ranger or special operations unit.
To get there, he’s focused. There isn’t much free time outside of class to relax, nor is there much time between semesters.
“We have school for roughly nine months a year,” he said. “The other three months are military training. Unlike other colleges, on our free time or on weekends we do military training. We’re always studying or doing military training.”