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I grew up in Bradford, Pennsylvania, a small town in northwestern PA. When I was growing up, Bradford was one of those small towns where everyone knew everyone, a town where the community rallied behind its students and athletes, which created a sense of shared purpose. In high school, I participated in a number of competitive sports, and I was active in a number of activities outside of school, as well. Although there were times when I wished that there was more to do, I can say that I am glad that I grew up in a small town. Growing up in a small town allowed me to focus on what was important and eliminated a lot of distracters that I would have had if I grew up in a large city.Because I did well in high school, I had the opportunity to attend the United States Military Academy. For the first two years, I was somewhat overwhelmed with all of the duties and responsibilities of a cadet. I did, however, manage to adapt, and I left the Academy with one of the finest educations in the world. Besides giving me the skills to further my education and make a difference, the Academy redefined how I defined hard work. After graduating from West Point, I found that my definition of hard work had changed significantly, especially when compared to the overwhelming majority of my peers, who attended other universities. In the military, I have had the opportunity to take the broad education that I received at West Point and aggressively build upon it. I have attacked areas, such as writing, that my transcript may say that I am weak in relative to other subjects. While in the Army, I have had the opportunity to travel quite a bit. When I was stationed at Fort Huachuca, Arizona, I tookseveral trips with people who were at the Officer Basic Course to various parts of South America. We visited the resort areas, but we also made it a point to visit areas that most people would have absolutely no desire to visit, such as Naco and Nogales. There were two reasons why I wanted to visit cities that were considered dangerous and were looked at by the majority of people from the area as having nothing to offer. First, I wanted to do what authors like Thomas Friedman, as well as some of our policy makers, attempt to do, and that is to get inside the pit with people. I didn't want to just see what people want you to see; I wanted to interact with people from all socioeconomic backgrounds, including people who were considered to be the lowest of society. I wanted to see and meet people who live in abject poverty. I wanted to try to relate to people who were inherently and fundamentally different than I am. And second, I wanted to place myself outside of my comfort zone, because that is the only way that you grow. As I lean back in my chair and reflect on all of the experiences that I have had over the past three years, I realize that, like several other people, I am at a crossroads in my career. To be quite honest, I am not sure what I want to do next. Maybe I just want to keep people guessing. I have received some great training, and because I was in military intelligence (I knowit's an oxymoron), I'm quite sure that I can make up some really cool stuff, but I would rather be honest. Sure, I want to build on my broad education base and leadership training. Sure, I want to make some money so that I can become a philanthropist. And I know that it sounds cliché, but all that I really know is what I knew when I was a high school senior making a similar decisionthat I want to be in a position where I can make the big time decisions that will, either indirectly or directly, affect peoples' lives.Ryan Peckyno
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