Monday, November 30, 2015 • 07:58

Maddy Daugherty is first female VCHS graduate accepted to West Point

Maddy Daugherty shows off her West Point certificates.
June 26, 2013
Maddy Daugherty is about to go through the most rigorous physical, mental and educational experiences of her life, and what worries her the most is the weather.

"My biggest complaint is the humidity," she says with a smile, even after explaining exactly what she's getting into. "I've lived here my entire life, so I still haven't gotten a full taste of the weather. I've been out there in the fall, and the weather was really mild. I was even out there in June of my junior year, but the whole week was very mild, so I've been lucky."

If luck truly is the meeting of preparedness and opportunity, then Daugherty has been working on making her own luck for a while now.

Having just graduated from Valley Center High School a few weeks ago, Daugherty is already on her way to the United States Military Academy at West Point as a member of the class of 2017.

She is the first female VCHS graduate to be accepted into any U.S. Military Academy and joins the six previous VCHS grads who have been accepted to military academies—James Mahan, Kord Roberts, David Macfarlane, Lance Bell, Nick Villemez and Dylan Smith.

"Especially right now, with all the issues regarding women in the military, I'm proud of myself for getting in, and I really want to encourage and inspire other high school girls who may be considering the military," she says. "It's an incredible opportunity to have some adventure while exploring your potential. I want to show other girls that West Point can be a great option for them."

Daugherty left earlier this week to take part in West Point's traditional Cadet Basic Training (CBT), which carries the informative nickname "Beast Barracks." The summer-long training session is a transition period for incoming freshmen—also known as fourth-class cadets—to move from civilian life into the daily life of the military.

"My dad e-mailed me a bunch of horror videos about it, and I've watched a few documentaries about West Point and specifically Beast Barracks," Daugherty says. "At first, I was nervous about going into the academy, but now I'm more excited than anything. Everyone says it's bad in the moment, but it's worth it to get through to the other side."

Daugherty says that one of the main reasons why she's not too worried about making it through is that she's learned so many valuable lessons and skills during her time at VCHS.

"Where do I start?" she wonders when asked about the people who have helped her get to where she is today. "I had two amazing mentors at the high school—my water polo coach, Kyle Kline, and my math teacher, Ms. Thor. They both pushed me in two different aspects, the mental and the physical.

"Coach Kline helped me push my potential and taught me that I didn't have a ceiling," she adds. "That opened some doors athletically, and I knew I had the opportunity to play in college. And I hated math until I had Ms. Thor. When I was in her class, all of a sudden it made sense to me. She taught me that if initially you're not good at something, you just need a different approach."

Even with the preparation she has under her belt, Daugherty still recognizes the challenge waiting for her on the banks of the Hudson River.

"They say that nothing prepares you for West Point like West Point," she says. "Everything is so structured; they balance academics with athletics. It'll be a challenge. I'm not too stressed about the academics, and I'm trying not to worry about the physical aspect. A lot of it is mental; they're breaking you down so they can build you back up the way they want you to be."

Preparing for West Point is a process that takes years—Daugherty began putting together her application file as a high school sophomore—and includes a list of items that aren't on most college preparation lists, such as a knife, a roll of OD green duct tape, and parachute cord.

"The application is fifty percent academic, athletics count for twenty-five to thirty percent, and leadership takes up the rest," Daugherty says. "It's all based on what you put in your application file. Most applicants start working on it before they enter their senior year, but I've had mine going since I was a sophomore."

Daugherty may not be worried about undertaking the challenge of West Point, but her parents, while unwaveringly supportive, admit that they have the normal apprehensions that one would expect to have when parents are about to send their daughter off to a military academy.

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't have some apprehension," says Carolyn Daugherty, Maddy's mother. "I grew up a military brat; my dad was in the Navy, so of course we thought she might go that way. But when Maddy said she wanted to go into the Army, I said, 'Who am I to tell how to serve your country?' We're very proud—we can't help but have some concerns, but we're very proud and we know the Army will prepare her for whatever she's going to do. We have faith she'll do well. She's a leader and she's going to be in a position to do well."

"It wasn't about choosing between following after my grandpa and choosing the Army," Maddy adds. "I was looking for what interested me personally and what I can offer to the military. As a freshman I was much more interested in the Navy, but I want to be a doctor, so I began to see how the Army was a better fit for me. They say that the Navy makes machine people, but the Army makes people people."

"I don't have any apprehension because my daughter is a badass," says Maddy's dad, Duffy, with a big smile. "Since she was six years old, I saw something in her and I knew she was going to do extraordinary things. I've always told her to reach for the extraordinary and never settle for ordinary. I always kept that somewhat quiet, but when she was in eighth grade, Robin Gilster told me that she didn't know what it was, but that she saw the same thing in Madison, and she told me, 'Whatever it is, she's got it.' I've always remembered that. I think Madison will be great, and I'm going to miss her, but I know she'll be doing something exciting. I'm actually pretty jealous of her jumping out of helicopters and things like that. We're going to miss her, but we know she's going to be around the best training and that they're going to prepare her for anything."

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