Sahuarita High School graduate Yasheika Beckaroo received her commission in the U.S. Army after graduating from West Point on May 23, and took part in history along the way.
The United States Military Academy at West Point had 38 African-American women graduate this year, the most in its 218-year history. Among them was Beckaroo, who graduated from SHS in 2015.
"It feels really good," she said during a trip home. "We were so tight in school and we all knew each other. I think a lot of the success in making it through was each other and staying together. It feels really good."
Last year, 34 African-American women graduated from the academy. Beckaroo said it's a record she hopes to see continually broken.
"I can see that happening," she said. "Right now, I don't know the exact number but with the previous classes I know the academy started bringing in more and more females and more African-American women and men. Just trying to bring up the diversity at school."
Beckaroo reports to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, on July 26 for training in air defense artillery. Afterward, she'll report to Ft. Bliss, Texas, in El Paso.
She returned to Sahuarita about two weeks ago and said this is the most time she had spent at home since leaving for West Point.
On Wednesday, Beckaroo and her mother, Alecia Brown, had her first salute with retired U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt. Jeffery King.
A first salute is a tradition marking a newly commissioned officer's rank. The officer selects an enlisted person who has had the most significant impact on them.
"It's humbling, and it's a huge honor," King said about being Beckaroo's first salute.
King is the naval science instructor with the NJROTC program in Sahuarita. Beckaroo did one year with the NJROTC during her senior year at SHS.
She said the program played an instrumental role in her joining the military.
"That program is so amazing because, early into it, I didn't know what to expect," she said. "I think that the program opened my eyes to the military and I was able to see that it's not actually too bad."
Beckaroo recommends the program to high school students whether they are thinking of joining the military or not.
King said the program isn't there to recruit students, and about 5 percent of NJROTC participants join the military.
"The program is set up to give kids leadership opportunities and, basically, teach them how to be good citizens, good people," he said.
For many, conventional wisdom says, making it into one of the nation's military academies requires early preparation. However, Beckaroo wants students considering an academy to know it's never too late to pursue admittance.
Beckaroo didn't consider a military career until she completed her senior year at SHS. She also started her academic career at the University of Arizona, attending the school's ROTC program.
After completing her freshman year at UA, she went to West Point.
"I have some friends that spent three years in college and then that's when they decided to go to the academy," she said.