College: New York City College of Technology
A Valedictorian with a Purple Heart
Richard Fisher, City Tech's 2012 valedictorian, did not excel academically in high school. In fact, his average was in the high 70s, and he had to take chemistry twice and go to summer school for math.
Fisher joined the military at 17 and was assigned to the Seabees as a carpenter. Before being deployed to Iraq in 2005, he was stationed in Gulfport, Miss., at the time Hurricane Katrina hit. He and his unit helped clear downed trees and other storm debris on his base and set up temporary quarters for service members' families.
Fisher, who is 25, had been in Iraq only four months before he was wounded by a mortar shell explosion. At 19, he was awarded the Purple Heart.
Fisher, who is in the Naval Reserves, has learned that to succeed, one has to work hard and be determined. He started at the lowest rank in the military and worked his way up to first-class petty officer.
"Before I knew it, I was a mentor to other sailors," he says. "I came to see that no matter what your field is, there will always be someone to learn from and someone to teach. I think becoming a teacher was always in the back of my mind."
Graduating with a BS degree in technology teacher education, he plans to further his dual career as an educator and as a military officer.
"My mom always told me that she could live with me not being a good student, even though she knew I could've done better when I was younger," he says. "What mattered was that I treated everyone with respect and lived by the morals that she and my dad taught me. I can see very clearly now that you can go far in life by working hard and being a good person."