A shining example of ‘Service before self’
WRITTEN BY Julie Drake
Highland High School graduate Angelyn Ancheta is up for the challenge.
The teen, who graduated from Highland High School in May, carries her “challenge” coin with her so that if someone should ask to see it, she can produce it. The coin was a gift from Medal of Honor recipient Sgt. 1st Class Leroy Petry, who had visited Highland High in February.
Petry, who retired from the Army in July with the rank of master sergeant, left the challenge coin with the school with the instructions that it be awarded to a deserving student.
Angelyn, 18, who served in Highland High’s Air Force Junior ROTC all of her four years there, received the coin at the school’s annual senior awards ceremony.
“I was surprised. My mom didn’t get it on tape. ... She said, ‘Oh, I didn’t tape it because I didn’t think you would get it,’” Angelyn said. “Now I keep it every day because it does push me to strive.”
Angelyn said she was awarded the coin because of her public service. The teen documented about 800 hours of volunteer service during high school, though she speculated it was closer to 1,000 hours.
“Basically, her volunteerism clearly supported the concept of ‘service before self’ that the Congressional Medal of Honor represents,” former Highland Vice Principal John Kleespies, who is now at Eastside High School, wrote in an email.
Angelyn was cadet group commander in her school’s ROTC, putting her in charge of more than 200 cadets her senior year.
“She was involved and was a great leader. She gave her all to the corps and worked to make it a better unit. She was an example for others to follow. I wish I had more like her,” retired Air Force Maj. Conrad Hernandez, who is in charge of the ROTC at Highland, wrote in an email.
Hernandez added that Angelyn is “selfless and dedicated to serving her community.”
“She put others before herself and worked hard in the community to improve Palmdale and the AV. She was a member of many organizations and clubs on campus,” he wrote.
Angelyn’s community service includes Highland High’s Relay For Life, where the teen stayed at the event the full 24 hours several years in a row. She was in charge of the school’s Kitty Hawk Air Society, an Air Force Junior ROTC honor society. She helped for many days for several years in a row at the Mobile Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall for the Antelope Valley.
She also helped raise more than $200 for the special-needs children at the Yellen Learning Center, served as the secretary for the Antelope Valley Red Cross Youth Corps, and assisted at Grace Resource Center’s food basket assembly and distribution.
Angelyn also served on Highland’s Mock Trial team,
A 2014 Antelope Valley Press Future Leader, the teen volunteered at South Antelope Valley Emergency Services, the city of Palmdale’s food pantry, beginning in the summer of her junior year.
She felt compelled by a need to help based on her experience when she was younger.
Angelyn, her two brothers and mother lived in a shelter for about a month when she was about 9 years old and her parents were going through a divorce.
Things are more stable at home now, Angelyn said, noting that her parents live in the same city.
The teen learned about SAVES and other volunteer opportunities through her service on the city of Palmdale’s Next Generation Youth Council.
“It’s like I had a connection with the pantry. Not personally, but I felt the need to help the people who came into the situation that we had beforehand,” said Angelyn, who was born in the Phillippines and came to the United States when she was 3.
Of her experience at SAVES, Angelyn said she most enjoyed seeing smiles on people’s faces. She recalled one man who asked her if she was divorced.
“I told him I was never married,” she said. “Then he kind of laughed and said you should do a lot of things before you get married.”
Her volunteer duties at SAVES were “all over the place,” Angelyn said.
During Thanksgiving of her senior year Angelyn filed paperwork, put together food boxes and helped deliver them to people’s cars. She also helped with the organization’s back-to-school backpack giveaway.
Angelyn joined Palmdale’s youth council her sophomore year as a way to get involved and considered her participation a great start.
“It was just like a channel where you could put your energy into it, and it kind of helped me get acquainted with all of the other programs,” Angelyn said.
She served as the council president for two of her three years.
Trish Jones, Palmdale’s community programs supervisor and coordinator of the group, called Angelyn “awesome” in an email.
“Angelyn is a quiet force, she is determined, creative, motivated and organized in a humble, modest manner. She follows through with commitments and is a natural leader, working with her colleagues, not just directing,” Jones wrote. “She sometimes flies ‘under the radar’ because of her quiet manner, but make no mistake there is a can-do force there, and she gets things done! She is a pleasure to work with.”
Angelyn’s experience on the youth council influenced her decision to major in political science in college.
The Antelope Valley College freshman hopes to attend a four-year university somewhere on the East Coast that offers a strong political science program, brilliant faculty members and access to policymakers and keynote speakers.
Her options include George Washington University and Cornell University.
Angelyn wants to be a special agent with the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations some day. She had also considered becoming a crime scene investigator, but Angelyn decided on the Air Force because after she retires she wants to become an Air Force Junior ROTC instructor.
“Being a special agent under the Air Force Office of Special Investigations merged the two worlds together,” she said. “I have retirement plans, and I have a career set out for me.”