“If I Fail, It’s On Me”: Making The Most Of Opportunities At West Point

Jonathan Parham


Although he was born in Annapolis, Jonathan Parham grew up mostly in Arizona and California. While nobody in his immediate family served in the military, his extended family has a long list of service connections, including several grandparents who served careers in the Army and Air Force. His great-grandfather, Alonzo S. Parham, entered West Point in 1929 as a member of the Class of 1933; he was the lone Black cadet in that class, and the only Black cadet at West Point at the time. He got separated for a deficiency in mathematics after suffering through near-total isolation and silencing during his one semester as a cadet. When Jonathan was in elementary school, he attended a “Buffalo Soldier” fair and that was when he first learned, from his father, that his great grandfather had attended West Point. That experience opened his eyes to the possibility of attending a service academy. Currently in his Yearling (sophomore) year, he has chosen to major in International Relations and Persian, stating that he wants to “understand the big picture” and share that world-view with his Soldiers, and because he believes that Persian will be useful in parts of the world he might deploy to in the future. In this interview Jonathan talks about his desire to serve, and how his great-grandfather’s experience at West Point motivates him to take advantage of every opportunity that the Academy has to offer. He highlights the diversity he has found at the Academy, not only among the Cadets, but also within the staff and faculty. He is a member of the boxing team, and notes that the team takes pride in their diversity. Jonathan concludes with his thoughts about what West Point means to him, best summed up in one word as “opportunity.”


name Jonathan Parham
institution USMA
graduation year 2023