Photo by Steve Shay
Natalie Budner is headed to West Point Academy this fall. She is a resident of White Center, and attends Kennedy High School in Burien. She is a women's softball catcher and likes rock climbing and flying.

Female Kennedy HS senior appointed to West Point

A female senior from Kennedy High School in Burien who lives in White Center was appointed to West Point Academy February. Natalie Budner beat the odds as women make up just 17-percent of enrollment there.

Over 15,000 men and women apply to West Point. Of those, only 1,100 were appointed to West Point this year due to federal budget restraints. You must also get sponsored, or "nominated" by a senator or congressman. She was nominated by our congressman, Jim McDermott, 7th District.

The Highline Times reported on two other area students appointed to West Point, Sean Crowley and Drew Hidalgo.Like Budner, Hidalgo was also nominated by our Congressman. Crowley and Hidalgo attend Aviation High School.

"I got my acceptance letter the first week of February," recalled Budner, a catcher on Kennedy's women's softball team. "My liaison officer called me and told me and I was really excited. My dream came true. It felt really good to be able to accomplish what I've been working for, for so long.

"I want to change the world for the better, while also working hard, challenging myself and getting over my fears and all the stuff that comes with it," she said. "I'm real independent and take care of myself a lot, so it will be a big adjustment in the new, college, environment."

And what about being a minority among all those male cadets?

"I actually get along a lot better with guys than with girls," she said. "I just find it's easier. When I'm going into an environment with a lot of guys it's kind of exciting, and a relief, to work with guys and share their way of thinking."

She said she has gotten to know Drew Hidalgo since her appointment.

"A whole bunch of my friends go to Aviation High School and Drew and I spend good chunks of West Point 'event time' together, the dinners, briefings in Seattle and Tacoma held to prepare us. There are a lot of new people there so we stick together. The guys there are really nice, smart, and know what they are doing too. It's nice to be around people who are like me and share the same goals."

Natalie's parents may assume she will walk on to the Division 1 softball field at West Point, but she has other ideas.

"I am thinking of joining their (rock) climbing team instead," she said. "I want to try something new. Now I go a few times a week to Stone Gardens in Ballard. I love heights."

Speaking of heights, she is a member of the Civil Air Patrol. According to Wikipedia, Civil Air Patrol (CAP) is a Congressionally chartered, federally supported, non-profit corporation and the official civilian auxiliary of the United States Air Force. CAP is a volunteer organization with three congressionally assigned key missions: emergency services, which includes search and rescue (by air and ground) and disaster relief operations; aerospace education for youth and the general public; and cadet programs for teenage youth. Cadets range from 12 to 20 years of age, and senior members 18 years of age and up.

"I am in their flying program, flight encampment, and train to fly gliders at the Chehalis Airport," she said. "I have 46 flights, and three are solo flights. We do air tows and auto tows, too, where the glider is hooked up with a long rope to a truck that floors it 60 mph down the runway. Airspeed is critical. If you get under speed a lot of bad things can happen. You can stall. I stay between 45 and 70 knots. The highest I've been is about 4,000 feet, with a flight lasting about one hour.

"I really love that my parents have always been open to what ever I've wanted to do even though this is like crazy and out off the picture for what a girl wants to be," she said. "They've always been 100-percent supportive and just followed me in my dreams and have done everything they could to help me succeed."

Mike Budner, Natalie's father:

"I think it's an honor to serve your country, a privilege," said Natalie's father Mike, who moved to Seattle because he said he was tired of getting shot at every day in his Chicago neighborhood. "Natalie is the type of person who needs to be challenged all the time, and they are going to challenge her to the utmost. She well excel and do very well. I am so proud of her.

"The opportunities they're going to provide for her I could never give her," he said. "I've got a good union job but I'm just a sheet metal worker. It is a full ride, and I think she's going to grow in ways that I could never help her do. She did real well at St. Bernadette, then at Kennedy. She just goes up, up, up. The sky's the limit."

Janice Budner, Natalie's mother:

"In about ninth grade Natalie came home and said she wanted to go to the service academies," said her mother, Janice, an office manager at B & G Machine. "We're like. 'OK', but I had no idea what it was or how it worked. We went to West Point and visited overnight in March after her February appointment. She fell in love with the school even more.

"It is scary, but I am very proud of her," said Janice. "She's just wired that way with her good grades, sports, community service. She has the work ethic, following, leading, all of that. She's in good hands. She is with the Members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Youth Chapter and helps first-graders in reading in Burien. She's low key, and doesn't like a lot of hoopla.

Added Janice, "Our older daughter. Sabrina, attends University of Nevada. She plays softball, too. Natalie looks up to Sabrina, and I think her big sister looks up to her too. It goes both ways."

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