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Lathrop High senior Ross Downum picks West Point
Lt. Col. (ret.) Venjie Gose, right, congratulates Lathrop High senior Ross Downum while Board of Trustee Nancy Teichaira looks on. Downum was recognized by the Manteca Unified Board of Education Tuesday night for being nominated by Congressman Dennis Cardoza to West Point Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy. The Lathrop senior chose West Point. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

LATHROP – Lathrop High School senior Ross Downum will attend West Point Academy in the fall.

The 17-year-old son of Darrin and Shari Downum of Lathrop finally made a decision after being accepted both at the United States Military Academy at West Point in New York and the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland.

The Spartan senior was nominated to both academies by Congressman Dennis Cardoza (D-Merced). Tuesday night, at the Manteca Unified Board of Education’s meeting, Downum was recognized for being nominated to the two academies by the congressman. With him at the recognition presentation was Lt. Col. (ret.) Venjie Gose of the Lathrop High JROTC program, and his mother Shari. Downum’s father, Darrin, who is a member of the Oakland Police force, was unable to attend.

Gose said Downum did not just meet the three criteria – simply known by the acronym SAL – required for his acceptance to attend West Point Academy. The letters, said Gose in the brief introductory speech he gave during Tuesday night’s recognition, stand for Scholar, Athlete, and Leader.

“Ross has exceeded the standards,” said Gose who was particularly proud of the fact that the Lathrop senior has been a part of the Spartans’ JROTC program of which the retired Army lieutenant colonel is the head instructor.

Trustee Nancy Teicheira also praised Downum’s parents for raising such a “nice young gentleman.”

Several members of the Lathrop High School staff were at the school board meeting to watch Downum receive his recognition certificate. Among them was Linda L. Wheeler, Downum’s guidance counselor for the last three years who wrote letters of reference for his applications to the two academies.

Ranked number 28 in a class of 278 seniors, Downum is just the latest member of his family to continue a long tradition of service in the military and law enforcement. His father was not the first to serve as a police officer for the City of Oakland. That honor belongs to his grandfather, Dennis Downum, who went on to become Sheriff of Calaveras County for many years and did not seek a fifth term last year. He had been in law enforcement for 42 years. Downum’s father, Darrin, is a 24-year veteran of the Oakland Police Department. The Lathrop senior’s mother, Shari, is a human resources director in San Ramon.

The Downums also have a daughter who is a sophomore at Lathrop High School.

The future West Point cadet is not only active in JROTC at the Spartan campus. He was a cadet captain last year and is currently the battalion executive officer or the “No. 2 guy,” second only to the battalion commander. He played football for four years, two years in Varsity, and captain for three years. He also played baseball for three years and one year in Varsity. He was also one of the actors in the school’s Every 15 Minutes presentation. He is currently vice president of Lathrop High’s FFA.

Downum is the first student at Lathrop High to be accepted to a U.S. military academy.