ALAMEDA -- Raymond Cole-Machuca, an Encinal High School senior, will begin to live his life's dream come summer.

In July, he will head to New York to get settled in at the U.S. Military Preparatory School to prepare for the following four school years at West Point Military Academy.

Cole-Machuca applied to a number of universities, including UC Berkeley, the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and UC Davis, but he is thrilled that his first choice responded first.

"I'm sure this is for me and I've been waiting for it for a long time," he said. "I can't wait."

His mother, Ana Machuca, said she is not looking forward to her son being so many miles away, but the family supports him because a military career is what he has wanted since he was little.

His paternal grandfather was an Army colonel and his great-grandfather was a 1930 West Point graduate who retired as a three-star general at the Presidio of San Francisco. Cole-Machuca said he has memories of his late grandfather and though he didn't get to know him as well as he would have liked before his grandfather died, he was inspired by him.

Cole-Machuca hopes for a military career flying helicopters or following in his grandfather's footsteps in artillery or field infantry work.

His interest in military matters may also have been sparked on his first day of fifth grade -- on 9/11.

"Ever since then I've seen our military at work," he said. "Since seeing on the news all the time, all the wars in the Middle East also caught my attention. Over the years, I became very aware of international and national affairs."


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His father, Jim Cole, said he is very proud of his son, and despite the feeling that he could have done a lot of other things; he is thrilled because his son has wanted and worked toward this for years.

Cole-Machuca has been in Encinal's ROTC program for four years, which, he said, gave him a pretty good look at a military style education.

His education has been well-rounded. Beside the usual academic classes, he plays baseball for the EHS varsity, and, beginning Saturday, will play a lead role in the school musical, "Hair."

West Point applicants are required to have a record of good academic and leadership skills and physical aptitude. All applicants must be nominated. Cole-Machuca worked with former Rep. Pete Stark's office for a nomination.

West Point graduates earn bachelor of science degrees and are commissioned as second lieutenants in the United States Army.

Jeffrey Smith was Cole-Machuca's math teacher last year and also endorsed him in the nomination process.

"He's a renaissance man," Smith said. I'm happy to give him a strong endorsement. Few people do so well across the board. "He seems to have a good time doing constructive activities. He makes the most of every moment. And he's a great thinker."

"When people set goals and pursue them as hard as they can, they can accomplish anything," Cole-Machuca said.