PUTNAM COUNTY – Cookeville High School graduate Talis Newman will soon be leaving for the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point.
According to Dave Sutter, Liaison Officer for the USMA at West Point, 3.7 million young men and women graduated from high school in 2021 in the United States. The top 1% is 37,000. Of that number, 10-15,000 have open files at West Point seeking admission. The Congressional nomination process cuts that number down to 5,350. From that number, West Point takes about 1,000. That is the top .03% and Talis has accepted the challenge of the West Point mission and was awarded an academic experience that is valued at around $400,000.
“Upon graduation from West Point, Talis will receive a bachelor’s degree and be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army,” said Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams, superintendent of the US Military Academy. “Everything that we do at West Point is just to get graduates ready for their real mission. As an officer, Talis will be entrusted with an awesome responsibility, to lead the American soldier, his country’s sons and daughters, wherever and whenever duty calls them, in peace or in war.
“Five years from now, the soldiers in his platoon are going to ask, ‘What do we do now Lieutenant?’ That is the moment that Talis’s entire West Point experience will be preparing him for. Talis has proven to date that he has what it takes to succeed at West Point and in our Army. I am confident that Talis will do a great job at West Point. I know that his family, friends and community are already very proud of him.”
Newman has always had an interest in the military. In middle school, he remembers having interest in joining JROTC. When he went to high school, Talis enrolled in the JROTC program under the direction of Col. Nickey Philpot at Cookeville High School.
“I have always wanted to serve my country; I can’t even remember what age that desire really started,” said Newman. “I knew my junior year I wanted to start working towards the goal of getting into West Point or United States Merchant Marines. What I didn’t know is that I would be accepted into both. My counselor (Darlene Hatcher), helped me with anything I needed from applications to transcripts.”
Philpot stated, “Talis is a well-rounded student. He didn’t just excel at JROTC, but he was also an athlete and an excellent student. He played football, was a leader on the wrestling team, ran track and field, was involved in clubs, and did community service. He is excellent in all things he does. In JROTC, he rose to Battalion Commander, the senior leadership position. But the thing about Talis is he was good at bringing out the best in all people from all walks of life. That is the mark of a true leader. His peers looked up to him, and overall, he challenged our program.”
Darlene Hatcher, CHS school counselor for 11-12th grade, explains how school counselors play a role when a student has a goal like Newman.
“I will first say that Talis brings a lot to the table and he is a goal setter. He carried a full academic load on top of everything else he participated in from sports to clubs and working a job. With what Talis wanted to do, it was a fast-paced process. He would have to set aside time and come and say, ‘Hey Mrs. Hatcher, I am sorry, but I really need this.’ I was happy to be a part however he needed help. I helped put the puzzle together, but Talis brought me the pieces. There is only one other student in my time as a counselor who has been accepted into West Point and that student also showed great discipline like Talis.”
When Newman’s name was mentioned to those who know him, the words most commonly used to describe him were “disciplined, hard-working, humble, leader, encouraging, just a great kid.”
When Newman was asked about his values, he responded with, “My mom and dad raised me right. Every value they instilled in me. The biggest thing is discipline and respect. They have also helped me so much with my faith, and that has driven me to where I am. My mom would say different, but I feel like I am pretty good at time management. There are 24 hours in a day, and I feel like you can make use of all of them.”
Newman begins preparing for six weeks of Cadet Basic Training then will immediately start classes at West Point.
“I feel like I am mentally ready, but I am working on my cardio right now,” Newman said.
Col. Philpot has spoken with Newman several times about what is ahead.
“Talis has been in the upper elite, top-notch group here at the high school. He is about to find himself in a population of people just like him, and he is going to have to compete. My encouragement to him is to keep his eyes focused on what his ultimate goal is and put all the other stuff aside. Talis is very humble. He has a sense of selflessness. Whatever he does that will continue on because it is within him and it comes naturally. He is a leader.”
Talis has many ideas of what he would like to accomplish after service.
“Of course, over time these may change, but I would like to be an astronaut. It would be really cool to go to space. Backup plan would be a professional in the WWE or be the President of the United States,” said Newman.
Newman leaves this word of encouragement to readers and students coming up behind him, “You have to try to be the best person you can be every single day. It starts when you get out of bed in the morning. The little things matter. And finally, be you, but be the best you.”