Ferndale Senior Among Elite Accepted into Air Force Academy

May 19, 2011

Ferndale High School Senior Danny Hicks, along with three other students from across southeast Michigan, were congratulated by Rep. Sander Levin Wednesday at Ferndale High School for their acceptance into U.S. service academies.

From the teachers to the principal to the superintendent to, of course, his parents, Ferndale High School senior Danny Hicks received a lot of praise Wednesday afternoon in the FHS media center. Yet the biggest name passing out praise was U.S. Rep. Sander Levin (D-Royal Oak), who congratulated Hicks, along with three other students from Oakland and Macomb county schools, for their acceptance into U.S. services academies.

To attend U.S. service academies, such as the Air Force or Naval academies, a student must be nominated. Students must obtain nominations by senators, congressmen, the president or the vice president. This year only 1,500 students were selected to these academies out of 10,000 applicants. Hicks was one of them and will attend Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. He leaves June 22.

"He's pretty self-directed," Hicks' AP Government teacher Scott Welborn said. "He's a leader."

"We're extremely proud of Danny," Ferndale Schools Superintendent Gary Meier said. "He set goals early in his life and met them and doing so only contributes to the force of this school."

"Thank you for being role models for us," Ferndale Mayor Dave Coulter said to Hicks and the three other students.

Both parents, Melinda and Ty Hicks, said the exact same thing: "We can't even begin to describe how proud we are."

But Ferndale High School Principal Herb Ivory hit it succinctly: "He's just a good kid, man."

Danny Hicks said he plans to go into the division of security for the air force. He said you can compare it to the police department for the air force. He wanted to originally be a pilot but said he failed his depth perception test. However, it didn't bother him. "With security, I get to work with people," he said. "I like working with people and it's really the only job where you really get to do that."

He said the role of a pilot is changing now with drone aircraft and that there is a lot of working out of a control room and not a cockpit. "After a few years I could maybe get a waiver to be a pilot but I don't want to control a plane from a room," he said.

To attend the Air Force Academy, he received a $414,000 scholarship to cover pretty much everything except travel to and from home during the four years he is in Colorado at the Academy. "This is the closet we'll ever come to winning the lottery," Hicks' mother said.

Along with Danny Hicks, three other students were honored by Levin Wednesday:

Ryan Gall, of Clinton Township, attends Chippewa Valley High School and will be attending the U.S. Naval Academy.
Gregory Gutkin, of Oak Park, attends the International Academy in Bloomfield Hills and will be attending the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Patricia Pasque, of Warren, who attend Cousino High School and will also attend the Air Force Academy.
"This (event) is a big deal," Meier said. "These are the kind of success we have. … This is a really nice occasion."

Levin recalled a visit to Ferndale High School back in his "early days of politics."

"Years and years ago, I came here to the high school to film something. I remember it well and there were terrific students here then as there are now," Levin said.

After reading highlights from biographical sheets provided by the students, Levin had each one say a few words and then call up their family members.

Danny Hicks had several family members, as well as supportive teachers and administrators in the audience. His grandfather James Hicks was in attendance and served in the army. Danny Hicks'  late grandfather Merrill Lee was a chief petty officer in the Navy in World War II. Both, Danny said, were big influences on him. "That's why you went into the air force?" Levin asked, jokingly, followed by laughs in the audience.

Danny Hicks has carried a 4.0 GPA over his four years of high school and was dual-enrolled at Oakland County Community College. He is also scored a 32 on his ACTs (a 36 is the highest possible score). Additionally, he helped establish the Junior State of America club at the FHS. The club debates government issues and politics.

"He had interest in this club, asked me to be the adviser, we went to the principal and started the club," Welborn said. "Whatever Danny sets his sights on, he'll achieve it. …Who knows, maybe one day we'll be voting for him on a ballot."

Ty Hicks said his son's time in Ferndale Schools was highlighted because his son was so motivated. "Him being a good kid, his motivation and drive, made the experience at Ferndale even better," the father said. "People feed off of his motivation and it makes people around him motivated. That's a leader."

Ty Hicks said his son is a little nervous about making such a big move but is confident he'll be successful.

"This is a big life change, but also a big opportunity," he said. "We're so proud of him."

(####)