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West Point bound? North Medford senior gets Walden's nod

A Medford honor student whose heart is set on one of two military academies has better odds thanks to a recommendation from her congressman.

Dana Jung, a senior at North Medford High School, is one of 10 students in Rep. Greg Walden's district to earn the congressman's recommendation to attend either the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado or the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York.

Of the 10 students this year, Jung is the only female and the only one from Jackson County.

Jung and four Klamath County students joined the congressman Saturday morning for a private breakfast at Black Bear Diner in Medford with local veterans, including Jackson County Commissioner Bob Strosser, who served in Vietnam.

In the diner's banquet room, Jung said she loved hearing “the stories of how they served,” adding that she hopes to have similar stories as an officer. She’s only recently submitted her applications to the Army and Air Force military academies.

Her parents, Tae Kyung Jung and Mikyoung Yang of Medford, beamed at the sight of their daughter standing beside the congressman for photo ops.

Jung said she’s hoping to pursue a career in science and technology, though she hasn’t narrowed it down between cyber or biomechanical engineering.

“I’m very open to the options at West Point,” Jung said.

Her favorite subjects are math and science, even though she doesn’t always take to them easily.

“I think that’s the charm of it — they’re very challenging,” Jung said. “It’s tough for a lot of people. You just have to keep working at it.”

Jung’s fingers are crossed despite stellar credentials that include straight-As, co-president of North Medford’s honor society, involvement with the student Hunger Strike Force and Medford’s Arts Commission, and proficiency with the piano and violin.

West Point accepts 10 percent of applicants, and the Air Force Academy accepts 12 percent, according to U.S. News college rankings.

Each applicant seeking Walden’s favor faces the scrutiny of a board that includes active-duty and retired military officers who’ve risen to the ranks of admiral, colonel, lieutenant colonel and commander, according to John Howard, who used to work for Walden as a director of constituent services and now sits on county and state veterans’ advisory committees.

Jung called the interview process “very nerve-racking.”

Walden said calling the students to inform them they’ve been chosen is one of the highlights of his year.

“You learn America is in really good hands when talented, bright, capable, clear-thinking men and women like these are willing to serve to protect our way of life and our freedom,” Walden said.

A congressman’s recommendation can make a difference, but Walden said “it’s a waiting game,” just like for any student applying to a selective college or university.

“This is the period of pins and needles,” Walden said. “It can go into April before they’ll hear.”

Howard assured Jung and her parents that no matter the outcome, she has many paths toward her goals.

Nearly all of the dozen retired veterans at the breakfast became military officers through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, which trains prospective officers by paying for their education at colleges and universities other than military academies.

Howard said ROTC is “not a half-bad way to go.” Within a couple years in the service, officers from both backgrounds tend to assimilate, though the academies typically have a closer knit alumni association, he said.

For now, Jung said she’s largely focused on graduation.

“I’m just trying to finish strong,” Jung said. “Senioritis is definitely real.”

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

Dana Jung, a senior at North Medford High School, is the only Jackson County student and only female recommended by Rep. Greg Walden to attend either the U.S. Air Force academy or the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York. Mail Tribune photo by Nick Morgan