Mozart demonstrated his prodigy by plunking out complex melodies on the piano. Stan Olson's affinity with the military and aeronautics was first discovered as a young child playing with building blocks and absorbing all things military.
"He played with Legos and designed things," said his mother Esther Olson. "And when he was 6 years he watched the History Channel."
In fact, that infatuation with donning a pilot's uniform and manning an airplane has been with Olson for as long as he can remember.
"I always wanted to be an Air Force pilot," he said.
Judging from Olson's numerous accomplishments as a four-year Sultana High School AFJROTC member, the high school senior is well on his way to attaining his dream. On Thursday, May 15, Olson was awarded a Senior ROTC Scholarship to attend California State University San Bernardino from Lt. Col. David Gool.
In fact, Olson was honored a total of six times during the annual Senior Awards Night. (For related story, see page A3.) He also received scholarship awards from Greiner Pontiac/Buick, High Desert Federal Credit Union, and from his teacher/mentor Lt.Col. Thomas O. Jahnke, who presented Olson with the coveted AFJROTC Medallion and Order of Daedalians Award.
But it's the Commander's Leadership Scholarship, which was issued by the Department of the Air Force, that is the ticket to Olson's dream. The conditional four-year scholarship will cover up to $15,000 in annual tuition and fees and include money for textbooks and a monthly stipend.
The scholarships and accolades come after an illustrious high school career. A four-year member of the Principal's Honor Roll, Olson was an active member of the JROTC's Memorial Honor Detail, served as a color guard and honor guard member in 9th and 10th grades. This year he has served as the Drill Team Commander, a honor that has helped him mature as a young man.
"You have to treat everybody with respect, and they treat you with respect in turn," he said.
He also was one of only 500 cadets worldwide to be invited to attend the Air Force Technology Honors camp at the University of New Mexico last year.
"That was really cool to go through that. It was the first time I got to fly."
Credits RancheroAVID program
Olson credits former teacher Mr. Elliott, who taught the Ranchero Middle School AVID program before moving over to teach at Sultana, for helping him realize that his dreams could come true by going to college.
"He really instilled that we had to go to college. That's what really opened my eyes, and opened the door."
If it was Mr. Elliott who opened his eyes, it was Sultana's JROTC commander Lt. Col. Jahnke and Master Sgt. Thomas who helped hone him into a young man of honor and service.
"They showed us how real leaders act. We knew it was going to benefit us in the end. They've been the most influential leaders in my high school career."
The Sultana JROTC program was so transformative, that Olson's father says the difference is "night and day."
"When he went into high school he wouldn't look anybody in the face," said Stan Olson, Sr. "Now he's outspoken and stands his ground real well."
If you ask Olson what he will be doing in the next 10 years, he answers without reservation: He will major in political science and technology. He will minor in business administration and pre-law.
"I'm planning on getting a master's degree in administration."
After he graduates from Cal State San Bernardino, he expects to go into the Air Force as a 2nd lieutenant and be station at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.
But he even has a backup plan: If a pilot's career isn't in the cards, he will become a military lawyer and serve in the Judge Advocate General's corps, commonly known as JAG.
Wants to serve country
But as his future gets closer, Olson's dream is steady and strong.
"I just always wanted to be in the military and serve my country."
When asked by a reporter about the waning popularity of the war in Iraq, his words are firm.
"No matter how the war looks politically, I still have the desire to help my American citizens and be in the U.S. military."