It caught him ever so pleasantly by surprise.

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“It’s humbling to think I’m the one kid out of 1,000 at our school who was picked,” says Karl Fredrickson, who received the West Point Leadership Award – the first time it was presented at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School.

The West Point Society of Los Angeles (WPSLA) initiated its West Point Leadership Award Program in 2007 to further knowledge of and about West Point at the high schools within its geographic area, they say. Fredrickson admits it isn’t something he knew much about.

“I didn’t even know what West Point itself was, I had to do a little research,” says Fredrickson. “But Mr. Porter helped me understand better when he explained it,” during the presentation ceremony.

Bruce Porter, the school board president and a member of WPSLA, says he received correspondence letting him know that high quality schools were being sought for participation in the program. “I thought, well, we have a good school,” says Porter, who proceeded to nominate Santa Ynez.

The school was added to the ranks of those giving the award this spring. So far, only 17 high schools have been selected for the program. The only other local school is Morro Bay.

Each selected school receives a perpetual award of a bust of a West Point cadet in full dress hat, which is to be retained in the school trophy case. The name of each year’s recipient is engraved on it.

It is up to the school to select a student in their junior class to receive the award based on the 60/30/10 percent model West Point uses to select incoming candidates. Sixty percent is based on academic excellence, 30% on demonstrated leadership and 10% on athletics.

Santa Ynez put together a panel of teachers to nominate and select a student. Porter is unaware of who sat on the committee and was not informed of the selection until after it was made. But he approves of the choice of Fredrickson.

“He’s a great choice. He excels in so many ways,” says Porter. “He is just so well-rounded and well-grounded – someone we can count on to lead our community and our county down the road, whatever path he later chooses.”

The recipient receives a framed picture of the Corps of Cadets on parade at West Point individualized with the winner’s name, the name of the award and the year it was given to them.

Where Fredrickson will go or what he will study post-high school is still up in the air, though he is leaning toward someplace in California and perhaps engineering related. “It’s a big decision and there are a lot of choices,” he says. He hasn’t ruled anything out.

Fredrickson says his parents have always pushed him to do his best in school, but doesn’t ever remember fighting them on that score. Because all of his friends also strive for the best possible grades, they push each other along.

Right now, Fredrickson is tutoring a rising 6th grader in all subjects, but primarily math. Watching Anthony struggle to catch up to where he should be makes Fredrickson all the more thankful for the mindset his parents instilled in him early, he says. With spring grades not out yet, he isn’t positive of his own class ranking, but in the top 10% anyway, he says.

Math comes easiest to him, so it is simple to call it a favorite, he notes. But the subject he gets the most pleasure from is English. “Mr. Reck got us into a lot of books,” he says. Reading is something Fredrickson really enjoys. He is looking forward to indulging in his assigned summer reading while traveling this summer.

Fredrickson’s father is the athletic director at the high school and with everyone in his family topping 6 feet tall, basketball has been a family favorite. But the teen also really enjoys water polo and it is that sport, if any, he says, that he is likely to pursue in college. For now, he enjoys being on both teams at the high school, along with swim team in the spring to keep in shape.

“One of my personal prides is being chosen team captain. I don’t necessarily like to be in charge, but it feels good because l can make a difference.” He enjoys being a role model for younger students.

His first stab at leadership – not counting his repeated role as various teams’ captain – came in junior high. The program there was in the startup phase and left him slightly burnt-out, so he didn’t initially participate in the Associate Study Body (ASB) functions at the high school. But with the persistent encouragement of friends, he finally chose to give it a go.

He ran unsuccessfully for junior class vice-president. Undaunted by the loss, he interviewed and earned one of the few open slots in the class. From there, the following year he ran for ASB president and was elected –though that came after he was chosen for the West Point award.

“It just goes to show that even his peers recognize his leadership,” says Porter. “ASB is an awesome class. It’s very fun and the people are very friendly,” Fredrickson says, acknowledging that it tends to be the top students who are drawn to it.

Fredrickson likes being involved in what happens at school, but prefers being “back stage” where he can watch the things he sets in motion unfold.

He has some exciting ideas to make the traditional school dances next year more interactive and fun. “I’m looking to help provide a different experience.”

struax@syvjournal.com