Jose Irizarry grew up as the youngest of five children of a single mother. He’s had a internship at Boeing, lettered in four sports and has earned a four-year scholarship from the Naval ROTC Marine Corps Option program to the college of his choice. He’ll be the first person in his immediate family to both go to college and join the military.
Question: Where have you applied to college?
Answer: I’ve applied to University of Washington, WSU, OSU, UC-Berkeley, UCLA, Purdue, but I’m probably going to Florida A&M University. I just wanted to try a different environment. My captain will try to get me onto the roster for the school year.
Q: What made you want to join the military?
A: When I was little I wanted to be on the police force, because what I enjoy most is helping people. I realized that in the Marines you’re looking at a brotherhood where they’re there just to be there for each other, and helping each other. I just want to give back to my country. My mom raised five kids alone. I want to join the military to help my mom out, financially and morally. Because I’m the youngest, I understand the mistakes some others have made. I know I can help her out by not making those.
Q: Why the Marines?
A: I considered the Navy, but I didn’t want to be on a boat for six months. I considered joining the infantry, but my Boeing internship convinced me to pursue mechanical engineering. Now I want to be a pilot: Ospreys, Cobras, Hueys, F-18s.
Q: What did you do during your internship at Boeing?
A: I was part of a site activation team. Our job, when we delivered the Air Force their product (KC-46A refueling tankers), was to make sure that they were able to take care of it and they had the facilities to store them. They gave me the task to create a hangar layout for McConnell Air Force Base (Kansas). I also created a layout of supply warehouses. It was an initial design for a layout.
Q: You picked up computer-aided design skills along the way?
A: I started building my CAD skills in school at the start of my junior year because I didn’t know about the class until that time. Also, I continued to use those skills during my internship at Boeing. We tried to do as well as possible. People at Boeing treated us as if we are actual employees. They treated us like adults. It’s kind of a maturing moment to realize that we had the ability to act like grown-ups.
Q: You’ve lettered in track, cross-country, swimming, wrestling, and you were a statewide Top 4 in hurdling last year. How did you get into sports?
A: In the sixth and seventh grade I was not athletic at all. I tried out for football in eighth grade and my legs were buckling. And I hated running. Then I started hanging out with better people and I started to challenge myself. I didn’t want to live a life where I didn’t challenge myself. I wanted to do anything and everything I can.
Q: All this and you’re working as well?
A: I work at Taco Bell. One thing my mom always taught me was to work for everything you want. There’s no better feeling in the world than the feeling of accomplishment, especially if you did everything on your own.
Q: How do you balance schoolwork, sports and working with things like family and friends?
A: I prioritize my education because I was always taught that education always comes first. Sports are the second most important thing to me because they have helped me build my character and leadership skills. I try to balance my work and social and family life equally because even though family comes first for most people, I know I need to focus on building my work experience to prepare for the future. I build friendships along the way.
Q: What does your mom think about you joining the military after college?
A: My mother understands and respects my decision to join the military. She gets both emotional and joyful on the subject because she knows it’s for the best.
Chris Winters: 425-374-4165 or firstname.lastname@example.org.