Herald American

Southeast Academy students take steps toward military careers

NORWALK — Two students at the Southeast Academy here have been accepted into national colleges, their first step toward service in the armed forces.

Marissa Gutierrez has been accepted into the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, while Jose Barajas received a $180,000 Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps scholarship to attend Oregon State University, a Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District spokesperson said.

“The whole experience is surreal,” said Gutierrez, who plans to major in psychology. “When I first came to Southeast I was very shy. Through the tremendous guidance of my instructors and the observation of the academy’s leadership traits and principles, I am prepared to take the next step in the service of our country.”

Gutierrez said she was inspired to attend West Point as a junior when she heard Southeast alumnus Casey Batley describe his experiences at West Point during the school’s Academy Day.

Determined to earn her place West Point, she rose in rank at Southeast from squad leader to battalion commander and obtained a congressional nomination from U.S. Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Norwalk, the spokesperson said.

Upon graduation from West Point, Gutierrez will be commissioned into the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant.

Barajas set a goal to become an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps when he spoke with a selection officer during a visit to a Naval Reserve recruitment center. He began a two-tiered application process, applying separately for the NROTC scholarship and admission to Oregon State.

When Barajas graduates from Oregon State, he will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps, the spokesperson said.

“At Southeast Academy, you have Marines teaching you, and they take great pride in wearing the uniform. They are our role models, they are there to help us succeed,” said Barajas, who plans to study kinesiology.

“I am proud that our students will be contributing to the best and brightest minds in the United States, and will become greater leaders in the future,” school board President Karen Morrison said.

“Through the leadership of its director, Master Sgt. Marty Schafer, Southeast Academy is doing its part to ensure that America will remain strong and vigilant.”