CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A West Virginia National Guard Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy graduate has made history by becoming the first cadet to receive an appointment to the U.S. Army’s military service academy, West Point, as a part of the Class of 2026.
William Farkas, a 17-year-old recent enlistee in the West Virginia Guard, will embark on a journey to become an officer in the Army beginning this month when he departs for basic training. He was notified this week of his appointment to West Point.
Farkas will report to West Point in June to begin his college career after graduation from basic training and one-station unit training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
Farkas was a standout cadet at the Mountaineer ChalleNGe Academy-South in Montgomery, West Virginia, the state’s second academy for at-risk youth. He earned the Robert C. Byrd Distinguished Cadet Award and Adjutant General’s Award for Academic Excellence.
“I just feel overwhelmed with joy and am prepared to take on all the challenges that lay ahead,” Farkas said when asked about his reaction to the official nomination.
“I couldn’t have done this without the help and support of MCA,” he said. “This is not a journey that can be walked by yourself. You need the support of other people. There are so many [people] that have helped me along the way, from teachers to coaches to staff at MCA, to just everyday normal people, my mentors and my family. I wouldn’t even be the person I am today without how they raised me. I believe giving credit where credit is due is important here.”
The road to West Point is not an easy one. The academy is extremely selective, and candidates must meet stringent standards even to be considered for appointment. Students must score 1340 on the SAT or a 29 on the ACT, complete a questionnaire and submit a school official evaluation that includes four letters of recommendation from teachers. They also must demonstrate leadership or community service through programs like Boys or Girls State, pass a physical fitness test and secure a nomination. Each congressional representative and U.S. senator can nominate up to 10 candidates to each service academy. Children of military veterans and JROTC cadets can seek service-connected nominations through the White House.
Farkas’ dad, Jay, served in the Army’s 586th Engineer Company, allowing Farkas to receive a service-connected nomination. He was nominated by West Virginia Sens. Joe Manchin III and Shelley Moore Capito and Rep. David McKinley.
“We believe in service to our country in our family and we believe that a citizen should give back to keep the freedoms that we have,” Jay said. “He’s going to continue that tradition, and we are so proud of him.”
Will’s parents, Jay and Rhonda, are elated at all that their son has achieved and look forward to how he will give back to West Virginia.
“It’s an amazing opportunity, and he’s done a lot of things and put in the hard work to get to this point,” said Jay Farkas. “I also think the ChalleNGe Academy and the West Virginia National Guard have helped him get to this point. He learned a lot of things at MCA about leadership, and it was really a great thing for him. I’m excited about his future and all the opportunities he will have.”
His mother, Rhonda, knows the hard work he has displayed throughout his life has helped shape him into the young man he is today.
“For him to be able to go out and achieve his dreams, coming from an area where some of our youth struggles, it’s going to be a great opportunity for him to be a role model to those young kids,” she said.
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.”
Maj. Gen. Bill Crane, the West Virginia National Guard’s adjutant general, noted that Farkas is an example for all to emulate.
“The National Guard Bureau’s Youth ChalleNGe program is truly a success story for changing lives across this nation,” Crane said. “I could not be more proud of what Will has accomplished through his time at MCA-South. We are so lucky to have young West Virginians like him join the ranks of our military. I know he will continue to do great things and make an impact in his community and anywhere that the Army may send him. I wish him all the success at West Point and his future endeavors.”