While Niskayuna seniors received their diplomas on June 23, Jack Schiavo was settling into the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, where he’ll spend the next four years learning and training to become a part of the U.S. military.
Schaivo said it’s unfortunate not to be at graduation, but he’s ready for the new opportunities and challenges that the Air Force Academy will bring.
The first challenge Schiavo said is getting used to moving away from family and to an area that’s at a higher altitude.
He said his parents had mixed feelings about his decision, but have been supportive.
“They were excited to see me want to take on such a unique opportunity and serve my country,” he said.
However, Schiavo said they raised obvious concerns that anything could happen to him at the academy and during his years of service.
Challenges are something Schiavo doesn’t shy away from though, said Shaun Neely, the Niskayuna wrestling coach.
Neely has known Schiavo for 10 years, coaching Schiavo in youth wrestling as well. Schiavo’s work ethic is something people know and respect him for, Neely said.
“The word that comes to mind for me is earnest,” Neely said. “He’s just extremely honest and hard-working and straightforward. There’s no deception or act with him, he’s just a clean-cut, straightforward kind of guy.”
Neely said he saw Schaivo’s work ethic shine during the several years he coached him — from the time he began youth wrestling up to his senior year. He said while Schiavo wasn’t a wrestling prodigy “every year he’d get better because he’d work so hard.”
In his freshman and sophomore years he placed in sectionals and in his junior year he was a sectional finalist.
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“This year he would’ve been in the running to be a sectional champ,” Neely said.
Even if Schiavo didn’t win sectional champ, Neely said it’s likely he would’ve received a wildcard to head to state competition, where he would’ve done well.
“We were expecting big things from him, so it’s kind of disappointing we didn’t get our regular season in with him,” Neely said.
But Neely said he won’t forget Schiavo’s time spent on the mat.
“For me he’ll go down as probably the hardest worker I’ve ever coached,” he said. “He’s just nonstop in the practice room, just working hard.”
It’s that kind of attitude Neely said makes Schiavo the perfect person for the military.
“I’m really excited and proud of him,” he said. “As an American it’s reassuring there’s young men like Jack going into the military to defend us because I wouldn’t want anyone other than someone like him defending our country.”
Schiavo will spend four years at the academy, going through rigorous education and training. He’ll begin with six weeks of basic training, he said. His school year starts in August , with a few breaks where he can go home to visit family.
During his four years Schiavo will have to choose one of 27 majors to study in. One of the majors — aerospace engineering — was a large reason he was interested in the academy. He said he’s always had an interest in math and science.
But he’s also looking at the possibility of becoming a pilot.
Cadets can volunteer to go through pilot training after graduation, according to the Air Force website. Those that volunteer, which is most cadets, must pass a medical evaluation before beginning training. However, while most volunteer, roughly 50% of the cadets move on to other specialties.
Then there’s the possibility of joining the Space Force, a newer branch of the Air Force, created by former President Donald Trump.
“I’m kind of weighing all my options right now,” he said.
During the summer Schiavo will also get to participate in other activities at the academy, such as skydiving.
Once he graduates he’ll have to spend at least five years on active duty, although that can change depending on his specialty. He will also have to spend three years in inactive reserve.
Neely said no matter what Schiavo decides to do in the Air Force he has a good head on his shoulders. He said Schiavo must remember to “follow his heart and remember all of the lessons he’s learned from his parents and teachers at Niskayuna.”
“I think if he keeps doing what he’s doing the sky’s the limit,” Neely said.