Two months into his senior year, Prescott High Class of 2018 member Bradley Stalnaker is clear-eyed about what he needs to do to move forward with his plans after graduation.
On Oct. 19, Bradley will be sitting for an exam that packs a big punch: it will determine his eligibility to enlist in the United States Air Force and dictate what job he will likely be assigned to perform.
The steadfast student now taking college Algebra said he’s not nervous about what he described as a college-preparatory exam for those who wish to go into the military — its official name is the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). He likely will do some review, but this is not the kind of test one can fake — either you have the knowledge or you do not, he said. He is confident he will score high enough to qualify for his preferred branch; his hope is the test also shows a mechanical aptitude that would enable him to be trained as a drone sensor operator.
“I think I’ve got this,” said Bradley before beginning his work shift in the produce department at the Safeway grocery store on White Spar Road.
Unlike some seniors who have yet to figure out a plan for after they obtain their diploma, Bradley said he feels fortunate he has known for quite some time the military was a good choice for him. In his freshman and sophomore years, Bradley was part of the high school’s JROTC program.
“He had this decided since he was a freshman,” said his mother Bree Stalnaker. “He started planning for it the minute he hit high school … We support him 100 percent. Not only is he going to serve his country, but also serve himself. We just have everything good to say about him.”
Beyond offering a 20-year career path, Bradley said he intends to take advantage of the fact the military will pay him to go to college so upon retirement he will be able to pursue a second career. He admits he’s not sure what degree he will earn through his college studies, but is firm it is definitely something he will pursue.
“I think that would be a good idea,” said the reserved, but determined young man.
An independent, and thrifty sort, Bradley is not one to take things for granted. He appreciates hard work, and enjoys when that pays off — like with the $600 deal he got on a Toyota Tundra. Bradley combined the skills he acquired in auto shop with those of his father, Robert, to rebuild the truck into a reliable ride with a unique look: he spray painted the hood of the silver truck a midnight black.
During his fall break this week, Bradley opted to spend much of it working at his part-time job in the produce department at the Safeway grocery store on White Spar Road. He has worked part-time at the store since his sophomore year.
Rather than head off for a vacation with buddies, Bradley is instead earning money to go with his family at the end of the month on what has become their tradition: a trip to the Buttercup Dunes in Yuma just before the Halloween weekend.
A dirt bike rider for the past couple years, Bradley said he is looking forward to racing around the sand dunes with his younger brother, Dason, 15, and enjoying evening potluck suppers at a camping site with his parents and longtime friends. The trip will require he miss a few days of school, but he said he will connect with all his teachers to do any homework he must do either ahead or via computer.
“He’s always been very responsible, and he has taken to his senior year like a pro,” his mother said.
The fact this will be the last year he may be able to join the family for this trip makes it all the more special this year, Bradley admits.
“I’ve always loved going out and doing things with my family,” Bradley said. “I’ve never been one to do crazy partying. I’ve just always tried to keep myself out of trouble.”
His mother said she appreciates that her eldest son still enjoys partaking in family traditions, recognizing as he launches into the adult such opportunities will be fewer and farther between.
“We always play together; we’ve done that for a long time, and it’s something for all of us to look forward to,” Bree said.
Bradley has informed her he does plan to take a little time for himself before graduation to revel in what he described as “the last of his childhood.”
“We’re super proud of him,” she concluded.