Ted Ginn, Sr. told Zacchaeus Knight at a 2011 football practice when he was a ninth grader that Zach would go to West Point when he graduated. Zach laughed and thought he was crazy, but Coach Ginn repeated this prediction each year until the end of Zach's junior year when he met Captain Jamal Robinson, a Glenville HS and West Point graduate who came to talk to Ginn Academy students. At that point, Zach realized that West Point might not be so crazy after all.
|Zach Knight with his little brother and sister, Chase and Kody|
|Zach's father, Stephaun, sits with little brother Chase|
His path to West Point is not the first instance where someone else has helped Zach to see where he should go next. His father, Stephaun, knew of Coach Ginn and had always envisioned Zach at Ginn Academy. "I knew Ginn had nothing but love for the kids and he was going to do everything possible to make your kid successful," he recalls. "It’s about what the kid is getting out of school and what he gets at home."
When scholarship money didn't come through at another high school he'd had his eye on, Zach found himself in Coach Ginn's office, listening to him describe the culture of Ginn Academy. "At the very end, he asked me if I wanted to be there and I said I did. I was captivated by his clear vision for what he wanted to happen and I thought that if he had a vision like that, I might as well be part of it!" he explains. And that was that. Four years later, Zacchaeus graduated from Ginn Academy as the Valedictorian, class president, and prom king.
|Grandmother Sheilah holds Kody as she naps|
|Proud father, Stephaun, shows off Zach's appointment to West Point|
Though there is no military history in Zach's family, the pride and intensity of mission in the way that Captain Robinson carried himself and spoke to the Ginn Academy students at that school assembly made an enormous impression on him. He wanted to be a part of it.
Through periods of doubt and cold feet, Zach persevered with his interviews, examinations, and application and emerged with an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point in April, 2015. His visit to the school with Coach Ginn made him especially determined to become a cadet. "Seeing how the students were, with everything moving like clockwork, nothing out of line. It was perfect," he says.
|Shelly, Zach's mother, with Chase|
|Zach with his various awards and accolades from his Ginn Academy days|
|Chase concentrates fully on tying his shoes with Sheilah, Kody, and Zach in the background|
|Zach and his grandmother, Sheilah|
|Zach with his parents, Stephaun and Shelly|
The whole family was understandably apprehensive about this time period with no outside communication for Zach, but very much looking forward to the next time they'd see him -- at the A-Day parade, in his full uniform, already a changed, more mature man.
Stephaun explained that it hadn't quite hit the family yet that Zach would soon be gone from their home. Halfway through the interview with Stephaun, Shelly, and Zach's little brother Chase (5) and little sister Kody (4), his grandmother, Sheilah arrives. She had been checking out locations for Zach's graduation party.
The family obviously enjoys being together, which is, of course, part of the strong foundation that they've built for Zach. Stephaun becomes reflective as we wrap up and says, "I love him dearly. He has been more than an awesome kid -- never been in trouble, always respectful. He’s given it his all from tee-ball to football, whatever it is he’s always done a good job. Nowadays with kids? You never know. So many distractions. We're blessed."
|Kody and Chase greet their big brother at West Point. Courtesy of Shelly Knight-Youngblood|
|Zach in his uniform with his little brother and sister. Courtesy of Shelly Knight-Youngblood|
The family is now sitting back and watching as their son takes off into his own life. They have built the runway and we can all cheer for Zacchaeus as he takes flight.