Juston Daniels graduated from YES Prep East End in 2012 and is now a Cadet and Systems Engineering major at the United States Military Academy at West Point. We asked him about his life at the academy, his involvement in the National Society for Black Engineers and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, and how YES Prep contributed to his success.
What does a typical day at West Point look like?
On a typical day, I usually wake up between 6:20 and 6:30. Our room has to meet a certain standard, so I’ll spend 10 to 20 minutes cleaning up my room for the inspection. We have formation at 7:10 every morning. Generally my classes start at 7:30 and I’m done by 4:00. I have boxing practice every day from 4:30-6:30. Then I’ll shower and go to dinner. Around 7:30, I’ll start on my homework or attend meetings for my clubs and organizations.
What about your military training?
You do a six-week session when you enter to learn the culture of the army and the academy as well as skills you’ll need for the military. I even learned to fly helicopters. The academic year is such a huge change of pace from the summers. We still take one military class per year, and we do some training during our off-time. Of course, there’s not much off-time. When I came in, I was expecting 15 credit-hour semesters, but the lowest load I’ve carried is 17.5. and the most is 20.5 credits.
What clubs and organizations are you involved in?
I’m a Big Brother for Big Brothers Big Sisters. I was in the program when I was younger, and I wanted to give back. I now have a Little Brother who is a 5th grader. I go to his school every Wednesday and help out with homework. Every other weekend, we go on trips. We’re going ice skating next weekend.
I’m also part of the National Society for Black Engineers. I joined because the organization looked like it had a lot of impact on Cadets and a lot of outreach opportunities across the United States. We do LEADS (Leadership, Ethics, Diversity and STEM) workshops for high schoolers to encourage them to attend college and pursue a STEM field.
How did YES Prep prepare you for the United States Military Academy?
The biggest thing you learn from YES Prep is the mentality of grit and dedication. YES Prep standards are high, but the faculty is there to ensure you meet expectations. It’s truly an environment where everyone is dedicated to your success and is pushing you to be the best version of yourself. I remember my college counselor, Mrs. Killian, came out to my summer internship and helped me apply to West Point. That’s another thing I learned at YES: to ask for help when I need it. Sometimes, I’d call a teacher at 9:00 at night when I needed help with a problem set. Now, I’m in a position where As and Bs are hard to come by, and I’m not afraid to seek help.
What happens after graduation?
I graduate May 23, 2017, and a few hours later, I’ll commission as an officer at the rank of Second Lieutenant. I’ll have 60 days leave and then start the Officer Basic Course in one of the branches. Right now, I’m hoping for the Corps of Engineers or Armor branches.