Memorial High School sophomore to soar this summer as one of only 28 students in the country to attend the CNAF (Commander Naval Air Force) Flight Academy.
To be chosen as a sophomore in high school is extraordinary. Vilius Bagdzevicius is extraordinary. He is also ambitious and extremely proud of his recent acceptance into the CNAF's eight-week summer academy. The U.S. Navy funds scholarships for Naval Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJOTC ) Cadets to attend private pilot training at select host universities. This opportunity is valued at $26,000.
Lots of moves
Bagdzevicius is originally from Lithuania. Through 10 moves with his family, he has attended school in three different countries (yes, he is tri-lingual!), including in two districts in Texas: New Caney ISD as a freshman, and now Spring Branch ISD as a sophomore. He is a cadet in the NJROTC program at the Guthrie Center, which is the district’s central Career and Technical Education (CTE) facility.
“This program helped me to develop what it is made to develop: a strong character, good leadership skills and opportunities,” said Bagdzevicius
“It has developed in me a strong sense of responsibility to my community and this country, which I demonstrate by going to all activities, community service events, volunteering events, and other events as possible. It also instilled the values of honor, courage, integrity and commitment, and I am proud of being in this program and country.” The development of these character traits is a critical part of SBISD's vision of T-2-4 for Every Child.
From a young age, Bagdzevicius desired to become a pilot. When he heard about the Flight Academy program, he knew it could be a perfect opportunity to achieve the first step of his dream. At the end of the demanding eight-week academy, participants have the potential to earn a private pilot license as well as earn college level STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) credits.
Rigorous application process
Applying to the CNAF Flight Academy was not an easy or short process for Bagdzevicius, on top of his regular academic and extracurricular responsibilities.
- Be in an JROTC program.
- Be at least 17 years old. Although the Academy normally accepts only high school juniors and seniors, Bagdzevicius qualified because he met the age requirement.
- Pass the real Navy Physical Test, which is harder than the one required by NJROTC.
- Complete the Aviation Qualifying Test (AQT), which covered; subjects in aviation, instrument knowledge, weight and balance perception, math and table reading.
- Submit an application with these two test scores and include information about the applicants life and school experiences in an essay highlighting the reasons he would contribute to the multicultural environment of the Academy. There are also many questions about aviation experience, volunteering activities and academic rigor (such as how many Advanced Placement courses taken).
Excited and grateful
In December, Bagdzevicius was notified of his acceptance into the CNAF Flight Academy. The first thing he did was to celebrate with his family. He then was quick to notify and thank his teachers for their support, including Commander Bill Breland, Senior Naval Science Instructor in the Guthrie NJROTC program.
Bursting with pride at the news of the first student he has ever had to be accepted into the Academy, Commander Breland said, “Although new to NJROTC, Vilius is already one of the top cadets in the unit, he is 100% reliable and dependable, always making sure to leave no stone unturned in everything he does within and outside of the unit. He is a Platoon Leader and core member of the unit that competes on several teams at all our competitions. His character is unquestionable.”
Breland noted that Guthrie’s NJROTC instructor for sophomore level students, HM1 Dominic Morita, recognized how Bagdzevicius seemed to be a natural leader from the beginning of his first semester in the program this year. It wasn’t until a conversation Breland had with Bagdzevicius’ mother they realized the young man has an enormous interest in aviation.
“Speaking with Vilius's mother at Community Tuesday was a critical step in finding out his interest in Aviation,” said Breland. “The next day I showed Vilius the opportunity to apply to the CNAF Flight Academy, and he immediately dove in and made it happen, 100% on his own accord.
“His energy, passion and attention to detail make Vilius a complete standout from others. He's the type of person that you pay attention to,” added Breland.
More steps to complete
Now that Bagdzevicius has achieved acceptance into the summer academy as only one of 28 students in the country (out of 330 applications), there are still several hurdles to complete before he is secured to enter the all-expenses paid program:
- Submit to the Academy his FAA First Class Medical Certificate
- Pass the Student Pilot License exam
- Get permission from the Department of Homeland Security to attend the Academy
Up for the challenges
Once he arrives at the Academy this summer, it will be intense. “They personally told us to get ready to study 10-12 hours a day, seven days a week, without any free day, for the 8 weeks,” said Bagdzevicius. “Although this seems hard, it's a challenge and an opportunity, which of course I will take full advantage of and do my best.”
The Spring Branch ISD community is proud this young man will be representing the district at the elite Flight Academy, and more importantly, taking concrete (and lofty) steps towards his T-2-4 success. Soar, Vilius!