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Reagan student's astronaut plan on track

Samir accepting award

Samir (middle) accepting his PALS mentor of the year award on Jan. 10 as he takes a photo with PALS advisor Suellen Foxhall (left) and his dad Kamal Wahdwania (right).

As children many of us dream of becoming a pilot, a rocket scientist, or maybe an astronaut. The rigorous path to these career fields aren't easy, which can discourage a young student to choose another type of career. But, since the day Reagan High School student, Samir Wadhawania, watched his first shuttle launch from the backyard of his Florida home he has been relentless in the pursuit of fulfilling his dream of becoming an astronaut.

Like many Reagan students, if a class did not have the initials AP (Advanced Placement) in the description, Samir did not see a reason to take the class. However, this choice results in long hours of study, giving up on the idea of personal time, and strict adherence to a schedule. The bar is set high, as most astronauts begin as Naval Aviators, and competition for academy appointments and scholarships for Navy programs are very limited, making academic success crucial. In JROTC Samir found a home that helped meet all of these requirements.

As ROTC leader, Samir demonstrated a grasp of skills, as well as a work ethic his instructor LTC Paul Loveless, has only seen in very experienced adults. "His intelligence is remarkable but his capacity for work is even more remarkable," said Loveless. "Since his first day in JROTC he comes to school for physical fitness training around 6:30 a.m. and does not leave until 6:00 p.m."

Samir has taken part in various aspects of JROTC, including, Armed Drill, Color Guard, Raider Team and Academic Team leader, placing third in a national competition twice. Leading and coaching peers is one of the toughest jobs imaginable. As the Armed Drill Team Commander, when one corrects a buddy you must be prepared to lose a buddy. Samir has developed the toughness needed to do this but his tact has helped his friendships endure through a challenging year for the JROTC program.

Along with these responsibilities, Samir balances tremendous church youth leadership responsibilities, a part-time job, tutoring duties and involvement in the school program, PALS (Peer Assistance, Leadership, and Service). The motivated student's work ethic and character emcompasses the "4-C's" of leadership: Courage, candor, commitment, and compassion.

JROTC primary staff earn a cubicle for an office to help keep organized. Most of these are decorated with rubber ducks, cans of play dough, and pictures of the band "One Direction," but for Samir pictures of his family and the children he mentors adorn his space. One of these kids nominated Samir for San Antonio High School Mentor of the Year which he received on January 15.

At the start of the year, Samir learned that the Navy awarded a four-year ROTC scholarship for use at any university with a senior Navy ROTC. His dilemma is that MIT (Boston) has provided the same opportunity. Seldom having more than $10 in his pocket, driving a highly used Toyota, and sleeping on the top bunk in a bedroom he shares with his twin brother Jamil, Samir is contemplating how he will spend all the money.

Samir may not claim the highest grade point average at Reagan, but his determination seems unmeasurably high while his personal accomplishments impact many in a very positive way. He has always known what he wants to do with his life and is following a plan to make that dream come to fruition. Will Samir be on the first manned mission to Mars? Time will tell, but he has the dream to go, a plan, and the courage to conquer obstacles throughout his journey of success.

Posted on April 01, 2014