Staying focused:

Lisa Yates, Editor

For 14-year-old Tyler Price, it all began with the parable of the talents – the parable in Matthew 25:15.

The parable tells of a master leaving his home to travel, and before going entrusted his property to his servants. One servant received five talents, the second two and the third one.

Returning after a long absence, the master asked his servants for an accounting. The first two servants received rewards because they put their money to work and doubled the value of the property they received to safeguard. The third servant received punishment for being lazy – he hid his talent in a hole.

“God gave me this huge thing called life and I don’t want to waste it,” said Price, describing his motivation and desire to achieve success.

“It (the motivation) also has a lot to do with my parents. As a kid I was never allowed to sit inside and do nothing. They told me to go outside and play with some friends or find something else to do. So part of it was how I was raised.”

The Dutchtown freshman-to-be parlayed his parents’ advice into a long list of accomplishments, including his most recent accomplishment - earning leadership recognition at the 2012 Louisiana Civil Air Patrol Encampment at Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City this summer.

Three prestigious awards

Cadet Chief Master Sgt. Price, a member of the Civil Air Patrol, received three prestigious awards at the camp: the Challenger Cadet Award, for graduating second out of his class; the Warrior Cadet Award, for outstanding leadership ability; and, Honor Cadet of Alpha Flight, for his overall contribution to the team.

First Lt. Lydia Pike, CAP AF public affairs officer of the 2012 encampment, said the purpose of the camp is to expose CAP cadets from Louisiana (and other states) to Air Force life and to test their leadership abilities. She said it is a challenging program, especially for new cadets.

“Tyler did very well,” she said. “He went in with a positive attitude and was determined to get the most out of the program.”

Pike said the young cadet earned the Warrior Cadet Award for having what the Air Force calls “a warrior spirit.” She said a warrior is someone whose strong character enables them to make sacrifices for the team and achieve their long-term goals.

“He has that warrior spirit – he’s not only a team player, but a team leader,” she said. “He not only did what he had to do, but he encouraged his fellow cadets to do what they needed to do to pass instruction. I’m very proud of him and his accomplishments.”

The Civil Air Patrol (CAP)

The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) is the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force with a volunteer force of almost 57,000 members nationwide. Members perform 90 percent of the continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and are credited with saving many lives.

CAP plays a leading role in aerospace education, and conducts a multifaceted cadet program for more than 22,000 young people 12-20 years of age. Members also perform homeland security, disaster relief and counter-drug missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies.

CAP's core cadet activity is the annual summer encampment. Typically a week or a 10-day long event, cadets are put into an intense, military-structured environment similar in certain respects to USAF Basic Military Training (BMT) for enlisted personnel.

A typical day at camp

Price said a typical day at the camp started at 5:30 a.m. where the cadets had 45 seconds to one minute to report outside for physical training. He said it was like that from day one.

“It started when we arrived in the encampment van,” he said. “The door opened and someone was yelling at us to get our gear. During physical training, no matter how fast we ran we were told to run faster. It was pretty harsh and hard to get used to at first, but at the end of the camp I felt proud to accomplish something like that which was pretty hard.”

In addition to the hard work, Price said he got to do a lot of exciting things at encampment such as firing weapons and learning how the military works with K9s to take down criminals.

“I flew a flight simulator and got a tour of inside a B52,” he said. “We also got to tour the place where they assemble the jet engines – that was very impressive.”

He said various pilots spoke to the cadets, including an older pilot, who told of his experiences flying A-10s, and a young graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, who told the group what it takes to be accepted into one of the nation’s military academies.

They learned many CAP Cadets enter the military, and almost 10 percent of the Air Force Academy consists of CAP cadets.

His long-term goal

Price said that his long-term goal is to study at the U.S. Air Force Academy and become a fighter pilot.

“I want to serve my country and make an impact,” he said. “I also want to have a job where I can get up in the morning and fly.”

During spring break, his dad Rowdy Price took him to tour the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.

“Tyler has a cousin who is a senior at the Air Force Academy – Logan Mitchell,” he said. “He got to go to class with him, to have lunch and to tour the dorms. He got to see what it was like to be a cadet for the day.”

While his cousin plans to attend MIT to study architecture after graduating from the Air Force academy, Price said he wants to major in aerospace engineering in order to get accepted into flight school so he can fly A-10s for the military.

Price said the A-10 Warthogs are the most requested ground support aircraft in the military.

“They’re the most put in harm’s way,” he said. “I want to fly these airplanes to support our troups and give the most help possible.”

A step towards his goal

As a step towards his aviation goals, Price participated in the EAA Chapter 244’s Young Eagle Flight program at Gonzales Regional Airport in July.

A family friend, Carly Shoemake, brought Price to a meeting at Louisiana Regional Airport where he met Janet Gonzales, airport manager, and learned about the various aviation opportunities at the airport.

Gonzales described Price as “so respectful” and “very focused.”

“Aviation is an exciting field – it sets you apart because it’s not something that many people do,” she said. “But the excitement won’t get you through all of the training you have to do and all of the milestones you have to accomplish when getting a pilot’s license. You have to work hard and apply effort. A lot of people aren’t willing to apply the effort. He is willing to do the work.”

Lisa Vahldick, Price’s mom, also uses the word “focused” to describe her son.

“I’m just super-proud of him,” she said. “I don’t know a whole lot of 14-year-olds who know what they want to do and are taking the steps to accomplish their goals. I don’t remember thinking the way he does and being so focused. He focuses on what he wants to do and he accomplishes it.”

She said being involved in sports has helped her son to learn the value of hard work.

“I think sports has taught him that it’s not enough to say you want to do something, you have to work hard and practice, practice, practice,” she said. “You have to work hard to do anything worthwhile in life.”

Values and character

Vahldick said even though she and Price’s dad are divorced, they share the same values as parents and encourage their son to follow his dreams.

“One good thing is his dad and I are always on the same page as parents,” she said. “Our children are a priority and we share the same values. I think this helps them to feel secure.”

Their values are: God first, family second, school and then friends.

“These are the things you can count on,” she said. “Tyler knows to do good, stay involved in positive things and keep his grades up. He knows if he does these things, life will be easier and better. It’s a competitive world out there.”

Price’s dad is also proud of their son’s other many accomplishments, which include: being nominated for Student of the Year at both primary and middle school; earning between a 3.8 and 4.0 GPA every year in school; playing on his school’s baseball and football teams; playing on baseball travel teams; and, serving different organizations such as the Louisiana’s Youth Legislature, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the National Beta Club. He also competes in rodeos riding bulls! In addition, Price serves the community through the Healing Place Church where he is actively involved in youth ministries.

“We’ve never had to worry about his character,” his father said. “He’s the kind of kid that will always do the right thing and make good decisions even when no one is around to see it. He’s very helpful and he likes to serve. He’ll give up something so another kid will have something. He’s a good role model for his little brother Austin.”

Editor’s note: Visit www.weeklycitizen.com to see an interview with Tyler Price and see his photo gallery.