On Wednesday, January 27, senior Coleman Dinkins received a phone call from Senator Roger Wickers congratulating him on his appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. Hours of studying, leadership and service, and hard work came into focus as Coleman stood in the Jackson Academy Upper School Counselors’ Office almost speechless, apart from the words “Thank you!”
Coleman set out on the path to West Point during the 2019 JA College Fair. Coleman had long been interested in armed service and eagerly visited with recruiters from the nation’s military academies. West Point alumnus Retired Colonel Thatch Shepard and Steve Guyton, a congressional staff member in Senator Wicker’s office, encouraged Coleman to pursue candidacy for a West Point appointment. That day, Coleman began working to build his résumé.
“I started with about five months of résumé building,” Coleman said. “I got three jobs, joined as many AP and honors classes as I could, and I volunteered.” In January of 2020, when the application period for potential West Point cadets opened, Coleman was ready with a résumé of academic success, leadership, and community service.
The application process began with a background check. “That was the easiest part,” Coleman remarked. Application essays came next. The topics ranged from diversity and collaboration to how Coleman would manage leadership positions. Medical examinations followed, with Dinkins submitting to the eye and physical exams. The Department of Defense reviewed his medical history thoroughly before he could be qualified.
“Then I had to do a physical fitness exam, which is what most people fail at.” To be considered for an appointment to West Point, candidates must submit videos of push-ups and pull-ups, demonstrating that they meet strict requirements for technique and strength. Before the fitness test, Coleman worked with Fondren Fitness trainers, including a former Army sergeant. “A lot of it is a grit situation. While you can get a trainer and make that what takes you to the gym, eventually you have to get up and do it yourself,” Coleman said. “At the end of the day, when you get up to West Point, they do not have a trainer there to push you.”
There were moments where Coleman considered giving up on the process, attending the in-state schools that many of his friends will enroll in this fall. During those times, memories of his grandfather inspired him to continue through the process. “He was a Korean War vet and a twin, and so I could connect to him,” Coleman explained. “Before he passed, he was my ‘C’mon Coleman. You can do this!’-guy.” When Coleman had moments of doubt, encouraged by family and friends, he chose to honor his grandfather’s legacy and push through.
Since his appointment was announced last Wednesday, Coleman has experienced a milieu of thoughts and emotions. “It’s honestly surreal. I don’t know how to react, except like, a genuine excitement,” Coleman said. “I told Roger Wicker that it was one of the highest honors I had ever received. You’re just so happy that all you can say is ‘Thank you!’ When I got that call, it was exciting and a surge of adrenaline.”
With his appointment to West Point made official, Coleman now gets to plan for his future more concretely than ever before. He has always been interested in languages and law and intends to pursue a double major in Arabic and Spanish and attend law school. He also looks forward to serving in the Army, as West Point graduates are commissioned as Second Lieutenants upon completing their studies and go on to serve eight years in the Army.
Following graduation from JA, Coleman will attend Reception Day at West Point and go on to Beast, the Army’s six-to-eight week basic training, in June or July. At that point, he will still be considered a cadet candidate. After completing Beast training, he will officially be an Army employee and a West Point cadet.
In the meantime, Coleman intends to finish his senior year strong and spend his free time with family and friends. “I really want to strive to do my best at all times,” he said.
To students interested in attending West Point, Coleman says, “It’s not an easy process but if you can maintain a level of grit and desire, keep going. If you show that you want it, you will get it. It’s not for the faint of heart, and if you have any hesitation, don’t do it because it’s such a sacrifice that if you aren’t willing to make that sacrifice, you are wasting your time, but if you are willing, the reward is 100 percent worth it.”