OTHELLO — Just about every day you read or hear that members of the millennial generation are this or that or are not this or that, and you start to wonder just what people are saying.
Then you meet 18-year-old Miguel Valencia of Othello and think: If the millennials are like this young man, or become like this young man, then the country will be in good hands when they take over.
You really can’t label Valencia. The more you get to know him, the more you realize he’s extraordinarily gifted at doing ordinary things. He’s much better than an average Joe.
But Valencia is not following a mold most of society expects. He carries a 3.7 grade point average, is a leader, is multi-talented, and he’s not going to college after graduation. He has already joined the U.S. Army, leaving some people dumbfounded.
“They say you can go to college. You don’t have to go to the Army,” Valencia said. “I’m still going to college, but that will be after the Army.”
Valencia will serve in the Army because he wants to. He talked with a recruiter last May and on other occasions and made his decision last November.
“I’m kind of patriotic,” he said. “I grew up loving this country.”
“I’m into politics,” he added. “But I think I should serve my country first before running for any office.”
Valencia voted for the first time in November. Instead of the liberal Hillary Clinton or the conservative Donald Trump, he went for Libertarian Gary Johnson.
“I don’t like the way the country is being run,” he said.
Valencia spoke with the Army recruiter extensively, asking lots of questions before deciding. He understood that he could end up on the front lines of battle field somewhere in the world.
“I wouldn’t have signed up if I wasn’t willing to go,” he said.
Valencia will report to Ft. Benning, Ga. for basic training in July. Afterward, he will be trained to work as a paralegal specialist.
A multi-talented musician, Valencia passed the Army band audition, but there is no place for a bass guitarist right now. He will be on a wait list while he serves.
Valencia is a serious young man. He also has a great sense of humor. If you want to leave him a phone message, you have to listen to his entire name – Hector Miguel Valencia Garza Negrete Sanchez Martinez Ramos Gonzalez Gonzalez – first.
“My mom told me my name when I was little, and I memorized it,” he said.
Valencia might have auditioned on trombone. It probably would have been easier, but he didn’t. He had to prepare four songs of his choosing for the guitar audition. Then he had to learn five songs of the Army’s choosing within 24 hours of the audition.
Valencia could have also tried on bassoon, saxophone and... He has a knack for learning musical instruments rather rapidly.
“If you give me a new instrument and a song and give me a weekend, I can learn to play it,” he said. “But I don’t know of an instrument you would be able to give me that I haven’t tried out before.”
For starters, Valencia can play the piano. He plays percussion, woodwinds and brass and guitar and bass.
Valencia started to tackle to music in fifth grade. His parents started him on piano lessons. That same year he started playing snare drum with the school band.
Arriving at McFarland Middle School, Valencia was told by band director Jared Dailey he wanted him to play bassoon because he was the only percussionist who could read music. Before graduating to the high school, Valencia also played soprano saxophone, baritone horn and trombone.
His freshman year at Othello High, Valencia played his trombone with the symphonic band and jazz band. He started to learn bass guitar so he could accompany the jazz choir, with which he sang bass.
His junior year, Valencia added his bass guitar to the jazz band. He did all of the same things as a senior and has added his voice to the chamber choir. He is the bass drummer for the percussion ensemble and taught music and instruments at Hiawatha Elementary last semester through the Teaching Academy.
Valencia started a pep club and is part of the pep band. In between the pep band’s numbers, the drummer, a guitarist and Valencia rock the arena as a pop music band.
You would think this is enough for a high school student, but it’s not for Valencia. He’s participated in numerous clubs through his years in the Othello schools. He was the ASB president at McFarland and is the ASB president at Othello High. He served as class president two years.
“I really wanted to be an officer,” Valencia said. “When you run for an office, you have to think you’re the best person for the job.”
There was one time Valencia’s classmates did not agree he was the best person. He lost the junior class presidential election.
That was okay. Valencia still had plenty to do, such as compete against other schools as part of the Speech and Debate Club. He placed individually at just about every debate in which he participated.
Valencia is an only child. His parents met and married later than most couples, and he was born when his mother was 42.
Valencia’s parents support him, but they don’t spoil him. They bought his first guitar, but he’s paid for every instrument since.
Valencia works as a lifeguard in summer for the City of Othello. He also earns money playing, singing and leading youth worship at Othello’s First Presbyterian Church. His guitar teacher introduced him to the church.
Valencia’s first guitar came in sixth grade. He became “very good” at the video game Guitar Hero and asked his father to get him a real guitar.
“Maybe I could be good on a real guitar,” he said to his father.
But Valencia didn’t pick up the guitar. It just laid around the house for a couple of years.
In his eighth grade year, the school had a rock and roll day. Valencia and a friend decided to prepare a Beatles song. He went to the internet and learned what he needed to know about the guitar, and he and his friend were ready for rock and roll day.
You have to wonder how ready he’ll be when he arrives at Ft. Benning.