Saugerties students join “Split Option” military program
Last summer, Saugerties students Alejandro Martinez and Cameron Young were not yet eligible to vote because they were just 17 years old. And yet they both took the thoroughly adult step of taking an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and obey the orders of the president. They did so by participating in a special “Split Option” military program.
During their junior year, the students decided that they wanted to go into the military and opted to enlist early. They subsequently gave up their summer vacation plans to attend the first part of their basic training, with a promise to return on designated weekends during their senior year to complete their training. The program is split between two years, which allows 17-year-olds to enlist (with parental permission) and to start their careers early.
Tim Reid, principal of Saugerties High School, is proud of how Martinez and Young are forging their own futures. “Whether our students intend to go to college, enroll in a trade school, join the military or go directly into the workforce, we are committed to helping them succeed after they leave our school. There are many options and pathways to success, and by choosing to enlist, Alejandro and Cameron are taking advantage of the one that best meets their life goals and passions. We are very proud of them.”
Both Saugerties students have enjoyed the hands-on work they have done at the Ulster BOCES Career & Technical Center, where Martinez is enrolled in the Aviation program and Young in the Auto Collision program. The military, they realized, would offer even more hands-on learning opportunities. They also found the prospect of receiving health benefits, paid college, extra certifications and travel opportunities enticing.
Joining the military is a big commitment, Young acknowledged. “Looking back,” he said, “I remember signing up and thinking ‘Oh, no, I’m going to miss going to Zoom Flume this summer!’” But as Young’s recruiter, sergeant first class Amanda Jaskot, noted, “He achieved something so much more than what he could have gained from a few water-park trips!”
Deep inside, Martinez always had the feeling that he wanted to join the Army Reserves, and was determined to follow his dream. That determination was tested during the first few weeks of basic training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina. Martinez said that he had to learn so much in those first few days that he thought his brain would explode. Every day, he and the other enlistees needed to arrive (clean-shaven) at formation on time, ready and able to work out, memorize commands, learn how to handle a weapon, rappel and march. The work, he said, was physically and mentally challenging. Martinez’s recruiter, staff sergeant Jason Lopez, said that Martinez did very well in basic training.
Both Young and Martinez said that the hardest part of basic training was that they missed the freedom to do whatever they wanted to do. Every day there was a schedule, and sometimes they just wanted to just relax and do nothing.
Young, who enlisted in the National Guard and also did his basic training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina, said that the whole time he was there, he questioned whether he had made a good choice. “It’s like an endurance test to see how much you can handle,” he stated. While reminiscing about ruck marching, Young grimaced and looked exhausted. A ruck, which is a backpack filled with necessary military gear, can weigh 45 pounds or more, and the enlistees had to haul their ruck around for several miles out in the woods. “I so badly wanted to give up,” Young recalled.
Young’s reaction was a normal one, Jaskot explained. “The reward is putting in the hard work and getting to the other side,” she added.
Both Young’s and Martinez’s parents said that their sons returned from basic training exhibiting greater levels of respect, maturity and self-confidence.
Both young men agree that although basic training was hard, they have no regrets about their decision to join the military. They are both proud of what they have accomplished so far and look forward to what the future holds for them.
Two Saugerties high schoolers get National Merit Scholarship nods
Two Saugerties High School students – seniors Elliot Wakefield and Stella Emerson – received recognition from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) for the National Merit Scholarship, a prestigious award given to the nation’s top students. Wakefield was named a semifinalist by the NMSC, a distinction reserved for fewer than one percent of the nation’s graduating seniors. This means that he will have an opportunity to advance in the competition for Merit Scholarship Awards in 2022. Emerson, as a commended student, receives a letter of commendation recognizing her outstanding academic ability and high potential for success in college.
Students are eligible to receive National Merit distinctions and scholarships with the following qualifications: those who are US citizens, plan to go to college and plan to take the Preliminary SATs (PSAT) in October of their junior year. The NMSC uses its own selection index to evaluate student scores in the math, reading and writing sections of the test. Students are compared on a state-to-state basis, and New York has the second-highest score cutoff in the country, making it even more competitive for area students and making Wakefield’s and Emerson’s achievements especially notable.
As far as what the future holds, Wakefield is interested in attending a four-year college, likely for Computer Science, in which he has already developed a strong background through the resources offered at Saugerties High School, as well as through independent study. Emerson is interested in STEM courses of study, but also plans to maintain her commitment to her artistic pursuits, which include cello, dancing and singing.
For students currently starting the process of studying for PSATs or SATs, Emerson advises, “Take your studies seriously, but remember that colleges are looking for the whole picture, with tests being just one piece of the puzzle.”
Holiday in the Village
A community holiday celebration throughout the Village of Saugerties will be held on Sunday, December 5 from noon to 6 p.m. on Market, Main and Partition Streets in Saugerties. For additional information, e-mail email@example.com or visit discoversaugerties.com.
Holiday fair in Saugerties
The Saugerties United Methodist Church will hold its Holiday Church Fair on Friday, November 19 from 5 to 8 p.m. and Saturday, November 20 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
There will be a dining area, as well as baked goods, homemade beef/vegetable soup, specialty nuts and other homemade food for sale. For your holiday shopping, handmade crafts will be available. Recycled items including toys, household items, jewelry and much more will also be offered.
Masks will be required for everyone’s safety.
The Church is located at 67 Washington Avenue in Saugerties.
Annual poinsettia sale in Saugerties
The Saugerties Boys & Girls Club is once again selling holiday poinsettias. These six-inch plants sell for $11 each, with all proceeds going toward funding club programs for its members. The supplier is the same business the club has used for many years.
Delivery day is Thursday, December 2. Orders of five plants or more will be delivered directly to your home, business or whatever location you provide. Orders under five plants must be picked up at the club offices on Partition Street in the Village of Saugerties unless other arrangements have been made.
Order your poinsettia by calling 246-7671 by November 24.