Though many would have never pictured him going into the military, 19-year-old DJ Niichel looks back and has no regrets in his decision to attend the U.S. Military Academy of West Point.
“It kind of stressed so many other things besides just school,,” said Niichel. “There was the whole physical side and mental challenge. I thought it’d be really cool to go for the challenge. I wanted to see what I was made of.”
Niichel is a 2012 Canyon Del Oro High School graduate. While there, he held high grades, was actively involved in the honors society and was a part of the baseball and golf teams. Much of his success was found on the golf course where he won two team-state championships in his junior and senior years. Though he is proud of those accomplishments, nothing could compare to being accepted to West Point near the end of his senior year.
“Making the decision to go there was the best decision I’ve ever made,” said Niichel. “I wanted to do something besides just making a living for myself. It’s kind of my duty to kind of help other people and give back. That was an alluring aspect of West Point - it’s definitely not about yourself there.”
Niichel’s first year at West Point proved to be a challenging and humbling experience. First, he learned that time management was essential to maintaining good grades as well as excelling in the physical part of the academy’s program. Second, he learned that humility and hard work go a long way.
After not making the cut for one of the teams, Niichel knew he could either fold or pick himself up and work even harder. He chose the latter and due to a teammate getting injured, Niichel was able to help his team in the competition, which involved military strategizing and different physical demands.
“Being humble and open to learn is important. I feel like you need to learn as much as possible,” said Niichel. “At West Point, everyone is working together and always being there for your team is important, no matter what.”
Niichel is in his sophomore year and currently pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering, which he hopes to use after graduating from West Point. When asked what piece of advice he would give to high school students, Niichel points to “not sticking to the status quo”.
“Do something that you want to do. Do what you want and work hard at it,” said Niichel. “It’s better than going through life thinking of the ‘what if’s’.”