Taft High senior plans career in Air Force after college

BAKERSFIELD —Taft Union High School presumptive valedictorian Clayton Wikoff was awarded the 23rd Congressional District of California 2014 Merit Award by Congressman Kevin McCarthy on Friday.

He was one of 18 Kern County high school seniors to receive the honor after being nominated by their principals.

“This award is not only about outstanding academic achievement; it is also meant to recognize the character and positive values that these students uphold,” McCarthy said. “We honor the hard work and dedication that these exemplary young men and women have demonstrated in their scholastic and community endeavors.”

Wikoff has a 4.36 grade point average and is the leading candidate for valedictorian at graduation ceremonies on June 4. He said he plans to major in mathematics and engineering at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, where he has a full-ride ROTC scholarship worth $60,000 a year. He hopes to be a foreign-exchange student in Germany his sophomore year. His family is hosting Felix Wildberger, an Austrian foreign-exchange student, this year, and Wikoff wants to visit him in Europe.

After graduation, Wikoff will enter the Air Force as a second lieutenant and plans to be a fighter pilot and serve for 20 years. He also plans to earn a master’s degree while in the Air Force in hopes of becoming an engineer.

The Air Force is an appropriate choice. One uncle served in the Air Force; another in the Coast Guard. One grandfather was in the Air Force and another in the Army.

Each of the 18 Kern County and five Tulare County seniors also chose a teacher who inspired them. Wikoff chose long-time English teacher Caroline Schoneweis.

“She helps with whatever questions I have in English, but she also helps with scholarship applications and conversations about college decisions. She is the adviser to the National Honor Society,” Wikoff praised.

It is a two-way street. Schoneweis said, “Clayton has inspired me innumerable times with his creativity and his willingness to strive to do his best so I consider this a great honor.”