Around Town | Student Earns Acceptance into U.S. Air Force Academy
A Santa Clarita Christian School senior was chosen from thousands of applicants to attend the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., in the fall.
Zack Norton, 18, is the first student in SCCS’s history to be accepted to the U.S. Air Force Academy. He is captain of the varsity soccer team, a letterman in football, a member of the California Scholarship Federation since his freshman year and an active volunteer at the Children’s Hunger Fund.
Norton’s well-rounded background helped him accomplish his dream of getting into the Air Force Academy, something he knew he wanted to do from a young age.
“It was at a school field trip at Edwards Air Force Base,” said Norton. “I think I was in fifth grade then — I remember really being in awe of all the cool planes there.”
By the time Norton was in ninth grade, he was even more serious about the Air Force and began preparing for the application process.
“What really had an impact on me was when me and my parents went and talked to Captain Colleyn (JROTC Capt. Edward A. Colleyn of Valencia High School), I remember him saying, ‘It’s great to be in the Academy or in the military but it’s also something that is very serious,’” Norton said. “That’s when it really hit me, I want to do this.”
Getting through the application process is difficult with multiple hurdles to get through. Before applicants can apply to the Air Force Academy, students must be active at their school by participating in school activities like sports and extracurricular activities, get a good score on the SAT, take all of the required coursework, get a nomination from a senator or representative and be able to pass the physical fitness exam.
Norton exceeded the requirements by maintaining a 4.4 grade point average, served in leadership positions at school, church and the community. He also received a nomination from Congressman Buck McKeon.
The CFA, or Candidate Fitness Assessment, has to be completed for admission to any service academy and is a test of strength, agility, speed and endurance, according to the U.S. Air Force Academy website.
Norton first found out about the extent of the physical part of the application process at a yearly meeting for potential USAFA applicants at College of the Canyons.
“I remember coming home from our first Academy meeting and we had a bunch of kids at our house for youth group and them asking ‘where were you?’, and explaining we were at a meeting for the Air Force Academy,” said Melissa Norton, Zack’s mother and a teacher at Santa Clarita Christian. “I remember looking for Zack and he was already upstairs doing his pull-ups.”
Norton passed the CFA by hitting the maximum amount on pull-ups, push-ups and sit-ups, went through and passed a medical exam, went through a rigorous interview process, and sent in multiple letters of recommendation, then had to wait for his answer.
On Jan. 10, 2015, an email notification came through from the Air Force Academy to Melissa Norton’s phone.
“I remember my husband was home from work that day, and Zack and the girls had already gone to school and a notification came up on my email that said you have an important message from the United States Air Force Academy,” said Melissa.
Norton met his mother, father and two younger sisters in the library at SCCS to open the email.
“I had gotten a text from my mom saying, ‘I need to see you in the library,’” said Zack Norton. “When I got there, my entire family was there so I was pretty sure either something was wrong or something was going to happen. When I opened the website and it said I got in, I was super excited!”
The Norton family credits much of Zack’s success to SCCS which, they believe, allowed him the opportunity to have a more successful high school career.
“We had considered sending Zack to one of the larger public schools, just because they had an JROTC program, but we felt that if God wanted him to get into the Air Force Academy, he would get there,” said Melissa. “Going through the small christian school allowed him different opportunities that he might not have been able to get elsewhere.”
Norton is scheduled to report for basic training on June 25, 2015, and plans to major in aeronautical engineering in the fall.
“People hear that I am going to the Air Force Academy and say, “That’s awesome! You get a great education, you’re guaranteed a good job and you get paid,” said Norton. “Those are all good things, but that’s not my main motivation. I’m doing it to serve my country and protect the people around me.”
Video and Article by Halie Cook(C) SCVTV 2015