ST. GEORGE — Anthony Parra was in class at Pine View High School when his phone rang and flashed an unknown caller ID.
The 17-year-old went out into the hallway and answered the call to find Utah Rep. Chris Stewart on the line, calling to tell him that he had just been appointed to the United States Air Force Academy.
Parra told St. George News it was the final confirmation to obtaining a goal he’d been working toward for years.
“After I hung up, I called my parents,” Parra said. “I went and told all my counselors and all the people who put so much effort into helping me get to where I wanted to be. It was for that hour that I was just with the people who have done so much for me that I realized, ‘Wow, my work and their work has really paid off now.'”
While being appointed into the Air Force Academy was at the top of his list, Parra received three other nominations to U.S. service academies as well: two to the Naval Academy and one to West Point. He also received full scholarships to both the Air Force ROTC and Dixie State University. All together, he received almost $1.5 million dollars in scholarship offers.
Parra said his achievements – which include playing varsity baseball, scoring over a 31 on the ACT and serving as the Cadet Group Commander of the Junior ROTC program at Pine View – are not solely his but rather a collective accomplishment.
Parra’s road to attaining this victory began as a child, when he dreamed of being a Navy Seal. He said he always knew he wanted to serve his country, but he wasn’t exactly sure of the path forward.
After moving from Hurricane to St. George, Parra heard about the Junior ROTC program through a recruiting process. At the time, there was only one unit, which was at Dixie High, but at the onset of Anthony Parra’s freshman year, the program was splitting apart due to its growth, so Pine View was able to get their own Junior ROTC program.
Parra’s mother, Jill, told St. George News that after hearing about the program “he just came home so excited and couldn’t wait to get started in 9th grade.”
Jill Parra said there was a summer orientation camp that lasted a week and that her son wanted to attend between his eighth and ninth grade year.
“I was like, ‘OK, that’s a lot of work. But I’ll support you.'”
Anthony Parra said it was at the orientation camp when he first put on a piece of government property as a uniform that he felt something he’d never quite felt before.
“When they issued me my camo uniform to wear throughout the week, I felt like a part of something,” he said. “I felt like I had something to work for and something to look forward to.”
After attending the orientation camp “he was hooked,” Jill Parra said.
She said that shortly after, at the Junior ROTC academy night where a representative from each one of the national service academies come and present the requirements for acceptance, she remembers feeling overwhelmed.
“I remember thinking, ‘There is no way my kid is going to be able to accomplish all of that,'” she said with a laugh. “Not that I didn’t believe in him or that he wasn’t capable of it, but it just seemed like such a far-reaching, astronomical thing to try to accomplish.”
After they got home that night, her son told her that he wanted to get into one of the service academies.
“And I thought, ‘Yeah right, there’s just no way. It’s just so farfetched,'” she said. “But that was his goal. That’s just what he wanted. He just kept plugging along and accomplishing everything he possibly could and accomplishing each one of the tasks.”
Anthony Parra said he owes his motivation to those who have put effort into him. It’s that effort that motivates him to give back.
“For me, my parents have been such a huge help,” he said. “The administration, the teachers and the staff at my high school have been a huge help. My counselors. My instructors from the (Junior) ROTC program have put in so much time for me as well. My motivation would be all of those people.”
Since the schools were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Parra has not slowed down. He has adapted to not being able to go to the gym and finds ways to stay connected to friends. He compared this time to improvisation skills he’s going to need in order to overcome future challenges.
It’s important to not get complacent during this time, he said, especially when options are limited.
“Before I got into the (Junior) ROTC, I don’t think I ever could’ve imagined I’d be in the position I am today,” he said.
Parra reports to basic cadet training June 25, where he will work toward his career goal of becoming a combat controller for the Air Force.
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