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West Point admits Ceres High graduate
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David Burris wanted to enlist in the Marines upon graduating from high school but changed his mind after visiting several elite colleges.

"I wanted something that had more promise and demand in it," Burris said.

Burris, a 2004 Ceres High graduate, earned a scholarship to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

"The more I looked into it, the more I realized it was what I wanted," Burris said. "I knew I wanted to go to a prestigious college and serve (in the military)."

"I give all the glory to him and his faith," said Lewis Burris, David's father. "He really pushed this."

Around 12,000 high school seniors apply to West Point each year. Just 4,000 are deemed eligible, 1,200 receive nominations and between 900-1000 register.

"I decided West Point would be the better option in the long run," Burris said. "I love the tradition. I love the fact that it's one of the oldest colleges."

Said Lewis: "It's the hardest-rated college to get into in the country. It also has the reputation for being the toughest."

Burris was also accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Penn State and Fresno State. He received letters from West Point and Annapolis in April.

"Both acceptance letters came in the mail the same week," Burris said. "It was overwhelming.

"The first thing I did was pray. These opportunities only come so often."

Burris visited West Point in November.

"I was there for five days," he said. "I did what they did. I woke up early, ate in the mess halls, went to class and watched a football game (with the freshman class).

"I fell in love with it."

Burris visited Annapolis before committing to West Point.

"Once I got the two letters of appointment, I went to Annapolis to make sure I wasn't missing out on anything," he said.

Burris was interested in Annapolis' aviation program.

"I wanted to become a pilot," he said. "After I made the decision for West Point, I had to take that dream and put it behind me.

"I think I made the better choice."

Burris will receive a full scholarship, which is valued in excess of $225,000.

"It doesn't cost me anything," Burris said. "It's all paid for because I'm doing service time afterwards."

Burris must serve at least five years of active duty.

"Now that I've committed to it, I really can't see myself doing anything else," he said.

Burris remains focused.

He swims, runs and lifts weights just about every day.

"I really started taking it more seriously the last eight weeks," Burris said.

He also attends Harvest Christian Church in downtown Turlock.

"I'm trying to prepare mentally, physically and spiritually," Burris said.

Burris will room with two other guys at the Academy, which is located 50 miles north of New York City in the Hudson Valley.

Burris is going to face many challenges.

"I heard the first year's pretty tough," Burris said. "But they're going to do what they have to do to keep you up to par. They really don't want anyone to fail."

Burris is considering a career in engineering. He might become a helicopter mechanic.

"I'm going to have a good education, where it's going to get me a job wherever I want to go," he said.

West Point graduates earn a Bachelor of Science degree and are commissioned second lieutenants in the United States Army.

Burris also plans to wrestle at the collegiate level.

"I want to join the (freestyle) wrestling club my freshman year and try to get on the NCAA team as a sophomore," he said.

Burris gained admittance into West Point after being evaluated in several areas, including academic performance and physical aptitude.

He also had to receive a nomination from an approved source, such as a member of Congress.

Congressman Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, announced the appointment on May 12. A local Academy Selection Committee interviewed Burris earlier this year and submitted its recommendation to Cardoza.

"We're very thankful," Lewis said.

The selection was based on a composite of academic factors, including junior class rank and SAT scores, along with leadership potential.

"He's such a well-disciplined, self-directed young man," Lewis said. "He's so independent and strong. He constantly surprises me with his character."

Approximately 28 of Ceres High's graduated seniors earned grade-point averages between 3.5 and 3.99, including Burris. He had a 3.7 GPA.

Burris scored a 1,280 on the SAT and 27 on the ACT.

"He's always kept his grades up," Lewis said. "That was number one."

Burris participated in athletics and extra-curricular activities as well.

He wrestled four years, played football and the bass in the Jazz Band for three years and was a member of the National Honor Society his senior year.

Burris was captain of the wrestling team this past season. He advanced to the Sac-Joaquin Section Wrestling Championships for the third year in a row and just missed qualifying for the CIF State Meet.

"He's a wonderful kid," said Jaime Guerra, Burris' coach the last two years. "He's very intelligent when it comes to school. He's a leader.

"Once he gets settled in, he'll do just fine."

Burris graduated from Ceres High on May 27.

He has to report to West Point for Cadet Basic Training on Monday, June 28. Classes start in August.

"I'm pretty confident but at the same time it's a scary thing," Burris said.

Added Lewis: "He's very much committed to it and I know he's ready for it."

David is going to miss his family and friends, who have provided plenty of support over the years.

"I love it here in Ceres," Burris said. "I'm going to miss it so much. I've been here so long. This is home." By DALE BUTLER

Staff Reporter of The Ceres (Calif.) Courier