In July, Phillip Miranda — who was a student at Lorain County Community College and a member of its cross-country team — was one of 1,100 candidates admitted to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point of the 13,000 who applied.
Miranda, who received Academic All-America honors from The National Junior College Athletic Association, says a career in the military has always been his goal, but the path to achieving that dream wasn’t always clear.
Miranda was homeschooled throughout the majority of his academic career, and in his senior year, he took a class at LCCC’s Wellington Center. After graduation, he was awarded an LCCC Trustee Scholarship that covered his entire tuition. He took general courses, planning to earn his associate degree, then transfer his course credits to Kent State University to participate in its ROTC program.
Then he was accepted to West Point.
“A career in the military was more challenging and less safe than a conventional career path,” Miranda says. “I felt like I wasn’t going to be doing everything I could be doing if I didn’t go into the military to be of service and put my talents to good use.”
Getting there with his coach's guidance
To be admitted to West Point, Miranda first needed to complete the application process, which included, among other things, a fitness test. Jim Powers was there to help him prepare.
Powers, assistant professor in LCCC’s Health and Wellness Sciences division, head cross country coach and assistant athletic director, had never helped a student gain acceptance to West Point, but he did all he could so Miranda would succeed.
“Each person is different to me,” says Powers. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and the part I love about doing this for a living is that you get to know the goals of these students, and you try to give them as much encouragement as you can and help them along that path.”
Over a few months, the two worked together between classes at the school’s indoor field house and fitness center to hone Miranda’s technique on specific calisthenics to prepare for and ultimately complete West Point’s physical test. The work was in addition to running 40 to 50 miles per week as part of Miranda’s regular cross-country routine.
“He’s very determined,” Powers says. “Everybody has dreams, but he’s one of those people who can take the dream and then plan it out so it becomes a goal, not just a dream.”
After some intensive coaching, it was time to see if the work would pay off.
“It’s a pretty comprehensive test, and you need to videotape the individual from a certain angle to make sure it’s that individual and make sure they’re performing up to protocol, up to standards,” Powers says. “We had to make sure we followed all the standards they set.”
The final steps and a life-altering acceptance
In addition to his physical assessment, Miranda also had to earn the approval of his congressional and senatorial representatives. Interviews by the nomination committees of U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs and U.S. Sens. Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown included difficult questions.
“They ask you everything they can think of to try to get a gauge of who you are as a person, so they ask about your family, your role models, any issues you’re passionate about, events that you’re following, characters in history you relate to. They ask you about your personal convictions,” Miranda says.
“That was probably the most nerve-wracking part.”
Miranda was at the LCCC library when he checked his West Point application status and learned he had been accepted.
“I was obviously relieved,” Miranda says.
After two months of eagerly awaiting an answer on his application, his acceptance to West Point has put him on the path to an eagerly anticipated military career.
An LCCC scholarship
Unsure about his path after high school graduation, Phillip Miranda sought a college that he could pay for himself. LCCC’s scholarship offer allowed him to work fewer hours to pay for college and participate on the cross-country team. He attended classes at LCCC’s Elyria campus, freeing up additional time that he would have spent commuting to a college farther away from his home in LaGrange.
“The scholarship let me pursue more of my interests than I would have been able to if I had to go to a different college,” Miranda says.
Jim Powers, head cross country coach and assistant athletic director, says community college is a starting point for many people, but it’s their destination that is ultimately most important.
“You need to figure out what people want to get out of the community college experience,” he says. “Are they going for a certificate? Is it an associate degree and then they’re going to get a job? Or are they planning to go on to a four-year school? Everybody’s different. We figure out what everybody wants and direct them to the right resources.”