New London high school senior aims high for future career
New London — In six years, Sigfredo “Freddie” Hidalgo imagines himself climbing into the cockpit of a fighter jet and flying missions for the U.S. Air Force.
It’s not an unobtainable goal for the 17-year-old from Groton, according to faculty at the Science and Technology Magnet High School of Southeastern Connecticut in New London. Hidalgo has excelled in both class work and athletics at the school and has stood out in part because of his laser focus.
“He’s unassuming and a very targeted, goal-oriented young man,” school director Laurelle Texidor said.
“He’s a gentleman, polite, considerate and yet very focused on his career goals,” Texidor said. “He does what he needs to do to accomplish those goals. Whatever he does, he puts his full and best effort, his best self, into it and that’s all you can ask. We are extremely proud.”
It was with some helpful nudging from his parents, who moved to Connecticut from Puerto Rico when they were in their teens, that Hidalgo said he set his goals early on and decided that he would not be floundering around in college trying to figure out a career path and wondering what job opportunities might be out there for him.
His first major decision was to attend the STEM magnet high school in New London and become involved in the Junior ROTC program, a choice he said was in part a practical one.
“My dad thought it was a good idea to join the military for the simple fact it could help pay for college and you have an assured job once you leave high school, for the most part,” Hidalgo said.
The decision ultimately was left in his hands and, despite some early reservations, he decided to test the waters in the JROTC program as a freshman. The accredited JROTC program is taught by retired Navy and Coast Guard officers and emphasizes citizenship and leadership development. The extracurricular activities include community service, drills and field meets and physical fitness training.
It turned out to be a good fit. From the time he finished boot camp at West Point, Hidalgo said, he was hooked not in small part because of the support and guidance of JROTC Chief Brian Smith and Commander Theodore Ward, the latter he calls his second father.
“It was just a fun experience. It was a lifestyle I got used to and a lifestyle I liked,” Hidalgo said.
Smith, who also coached Hidalgo in baseball, said Hidalgo is well suited for the career path he has chosen.
“Whoever you talk to, you’ll hear the same thing,” Smith said. “He’s hard working, gets along with all the kids at school. He’s been a very big part of this program and it’s not an easy credit.”
Hidalgo would go on to play varsity baseball and started at second base for his final three years at school. He’s also kept up in his academics, being a member of the National Honor Society for the past three years.
Hidalgo said when he starts attending Eastern Connecticut State University in the fall, he plans to major in physical education. He already has a leg up, having taken courses and passed a personal training course offered at school.
Once at Eastern, Hidalgo said he will also participate in the Air Force ROTC program, offered at the University of Connecticut. He’s already been accepted into the program.
He expects that, upon completion of his studies, he will start two years of pilot training before spending the next nine years in the Air Force, hopefully as a pilot.
Hidalgo said he’s hoping to earn scholarships to help him pay for school through work with the local nonprofit Higher Edge, which helps low-income students get into college and also follows their progress through college.
Hidalgo is the son of Sigfredo Hidalgo and Dineilly Negron and has a half-sister and two younger siblings, a brother and sister.
His mother, he says, is the nervous type and would be worried about him whether or not he joined the military.
The elder Hidalgo said the family is proud and supports him in whatever he chooses to do.
“I’ve got to say we’ve been blessed. He’s a really easygoing kid,” the elder Hidalgo said. “He went through some of the normal stuff kids go through but overall he’s very respectful, involved with church programs and likes helping people. He’s very responsible.”
The elder Hidalgo said his own father died when he was young and he himself made ill-advised decisions that led to some hardships.
“I made the decision that with my kids I would make sure I’d be that father I did not have growing up. I wanted to make sure my kids do better than I’ve done,” he said. “You have to work hard for things in life. As long as you realize things are not going to be handed to you. You have to go out and chase your dreams. They are not going to fall into your lap.”