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A graduate of the West Virginia National Guard’s Montgomery-headquartered Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy-South has received two nominations for appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

William Farkas, 16, of Tunnelton in Preston County, received a service nomination from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on Nov. 1. He had already received a service-connected nomination as the child of a military veteran.

“West Virginians have a long legacy of bravely serving our country,” Manchin said in a release from his office. “It is my highest honor to recommend William Farkas, one of 36 of West Virginia’s finest young men and women who applied for nominations through my office this year to attend the U.S. Service Academies, to an appointment at West Point.”

Acceptance into any of the five service academies is highly competitive. Applicants must meet strict eligibility requirements, including academic and physical criteria, and have a proven history of leadership qualities. Service academies routinely rank amongst the top universities in the nation. Out of 12,294 applicants seeking a spot in the West Point Class of 2022, only 4,005 ended up receiving nominations, and only 1,210 were eventually accepted.

If selected as a member of the Class of 2026, upon completion of the rigorous, four-year academy, Farkas will become a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army.

“It is an honor to have received this military academy nomination from Sen. Manchin,” Farkas said. “My experiences with my family, the different organizations I have been involved with and at Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy have instilled in me a strong foundation of service and dedication to our nation, which I hope to build upon at West Point. I can’t wait to represent West Virginia at the United States Military Academy.”

Nominations to the academies can be attained from members of the U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, the Secretary of the Army, and/or the vice president of the United States.

Because of his already exemplary leadership skills, Farkas excelled in his 22 weeks at Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy-South and earned several awards, including the Robert C. Byrd Distinguished Cadet Award and Adjutant General’s Award for Academic Excellence.

Farkas said the structure of the MCA program helped him define his goals and gave him the confidence to obtain them.

“MCA-South boosted my confidence and focus in ways that I hadn’t really experienced before,” he said. “The structured environment, the staff, the way they keep us on the straight and narrow path, really helped me find what I was meant to do with my life. I was focused in school and didn’t have a problem with grades or extracurriculars. I was a successful student and athlete, but MCA-South gave me much more than that. It helped to develop my character and show me what a true leader looks like.”

“I could not be more proud of the accomplishments and drive of Cadet Farkas as he journeys down this path toward achieving his goal of attending West Point. What the Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy does for young West Virginians cannot be understated; it truly changes lives,” said Maj. Gen. William “Bill” Crane, Adjutant General of the WVNG. “While this is important to William, his nomination for appointment to a service academy also opens up the door to other MCA cadets who can look to his example as inspiration to set their own life-changing goals. I know he will continue to do great things throughout his career.”

Farkas earned his high school diploma through the Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy and will enlist in the West Virginia National Guard after he turns 17 later this month. He hopes to receive a third nomination to West Point, further increasing his odds to be accepted into the prestigious institution located in New York state.

“I’ve always had the desire to serve my country in the military pretty much as long as I remember,” Farkas said. “It’s something my parents instilled in me, and I was always reading books growing up, watching military documentaries, learning about the experience across all the different branches. Going to MCA, I think really refined my goals and what path I would like to take specifically.”

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He’s considering a couple of different career paths when he enlists with the WVNG, including combat engineer or cavalry scout.

“I’m looking at a couple of different units, but I think joining the National Guard will help me along my path to go to West Point,” Farkas said. “But it’s not just all about that. In the end, I want to serve not only my country but also my state, and I feel like the West Virginia National Guard is the best way to do that.”

Farkas’ father served in an Army combat bridge unit, allowing Farkas to receive a service-connected nomination.

“It is very strenuous and more involved than I think other college applications would be,” Farkas said. “Compared to another state college or private college, applying to a Service Academy requires many other aspects of a candidate’s life to be put on record.”

Farkas has shown his leadership skills from a young age, his mother, Rhonda, said, so she’s not surprised he set his sights on West Point.

“He’s a natural leader,” she said. “It comes to him naturally, and he loves it naturally. He gets nervous talking to people, but his dad has guided him along the way, and he has taught him to work hard and to put his whole heart into it and not let obstacles hold him back.”

Farkas, his father and his younger brother abide by a quote from Thomas Edison that says, “Opportunities are missed by most men because it is dressed in overalls and looks like hard work.” That quote has motivated Farkas and his brother to try hard in all aspects of life.

“I have never seen a more hard-working group of three young men like my husband and these two boys,” Rhonda Farkas said. “They’re always out working on our farm, and I think that’s where he has learned this leadership role is from his dad. He’s not even trying to do that; he just picked it up naturally. As soon as he was given the opportunity to be a leader at 11 years old at VFW camp at Camp Dawson, he was thriving.

“I cannot say enough about MCA,” she said. “They are the most wonderful, caring, kind, loving people we have ever come across in a school environment. The staff introduced him to the National Guard, and that’s when he started to focus on West Point, because that’s when he started to really believe in himself.”

Farkas is grateful to the staff and cadets at Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy-South for their support as he pursues a career in the U.S. military.

“I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for their support and their enthusiasm for what I want to do with my life,” he said.

The Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy is based at the WVNG’s Camp Dawson in Kingwood, Preston County. The MCA-South facilities opened at 213 Fayette Pike in Montgomery in October 2020.

(Whitney Humphrey is a Public Affairs Specialist with the West Virginia National Guard.)

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