Rainy and miserable. That is how Adam Wilk describes his favorite memory from his four years at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The description was of his Cadet Leadership Development Training Experience, which consisted of spending three weeks in the woods practicing what they’d learned. Wilk, a 2019 graduate of Prospect Ridge Academy, is set to graduate from West Point this spring.
Wilk said for Cadet Leadership Development Training the cadets are in the woods for three weeks where they are graded by officers and non-commissioned officers on their leadership abilities. Three times a day a different cadet is chosen to be the platoon leader, who has to figure out and brief a plan, develop the mission, assign tasks and make sure the plan is followed.
“It’s a chance to see first hand your leadership skills in conjunction with the military stuff,” he said. “It was improvisation but a way to make sure I was doing well. It rained almost every single day and was miserable, but also so much fun. I was out there learning about myself and ‘embracing the suck’, as we call it.”
When Wilk entered PRA as a freshman in 2015, thoughts of attending a military academy weren’t on his radar. In fact, Wilk said for him high school was a time of figuring out who he was. He served on student council, joined and was captain of throwing for the track team junior and senior year, and played on the football team senior year.
Wilk said he started looking at colleges late and even then wasn’t thinking about West Point. He applied and was accepted to Georgia Tech, Mines, and Florida Tech. Then, after connecting with local West Point alum Jace Johnson, he started thinking about military academies.
“I was figuring out where I wanted to go,” he said, “but as soon as I started doing interviews for West Point, I knew I was going to put everything toward it. It’s a long, complicated process but worth it.”
Cadet basic training, also known as Beast, was rough, Wilk said, and the plebe year, as freshman year is known at West Point, was busy. Now a senior, he can look back on that year and see how it shaped the cadet he became.
“Looking back West Point was the best opportunity I’ve had,” he said. “As a plebe, you’re not a leader and you see which leadership styles work. We then get to practice those for ourselves and impart to the next levels of underclassmen things they will carry forward. Now I think, ‘Wow, those things I hated as a freshman are what have made me who I am.”
PRA played a part in shaping Wilk’s experience too. He said his years at PRA gave him a heads start with academics. He said his writing skills were ahead of his peers and he had an advantage in the area of leadership too.
“PRA is very similar in structure and intensity to what I’ve encountered at West Point,” he said. “The academics and participation in student government gave me a leadership advantage. PRA taught me to rely on friends and in West Point’s small community you learn that you have to ‘corporate to graduate’.”
His time at PRA also brought him together with his fiance, Lauren Paredes, who is also a member of the class of 2019. Dating since their sophomore year in high school, Paredes and Wilk said even now they talk more about their time at PRA than they thought they would, remembering teachers or certain classes. In early March, the couple returned to the PRA campus for the first time together. Wilk spoke after school to middle school and high school students who are interested in West Point. Before that, Paredes and Wilk walked around and talked to some of their teachers.
“PRA comes up a lot more than you’d think it would,” Paredes said. “The last four years have gone by in a blink. It was fun to walk around. It’s the same but different.”
Since graduation, the couple has learned to manage a long-distance relationship with her at the University of Colorado Boulder and him in New York. They were engaged in June 2022 and are planning their wedding for this June.
“We’ve learned how to communicate better and in different ways,” Paredes said. “Body language doesn’t translate through the camera so we’ve learned to be more direct.”
Wilk said he has learned patience as well, since often their busy schedules made it difficult to connect or technology issues made it impossible. A combined Google Calendar helped them find times when both were available.
After graduation this spring, Paredes, who will earn a degree in computer science, will join Wilk, who majored in space science, in Oklahoma for a few months where he will attend Basic Officer Leader Course. Then the couple will move to Germany for a couple of years where Wilk will serve as an Air Defense Artillery officer.
As they look to the future, they hope to return to Colorado and someday start a business together that combines the couple’s technical and leadership expertise.
By Amy G. Partain
PRA Communications Manager