Meet California State Guard Sgt. 1st Class Shaun Valdivia

Story by U.S. Army Sgt Marla Ogden
California Military Department Public Affairs

Jan. 17, 2024

Los Alamitos, Calif.The cadets at Porterville Military Academy, a small-sized quasi-military institution for middle and high-school students, epitomize a commitment to both academic excellence and physical fitness.

California State Guard Sgt. 1st Class Shaun Valdivia, a tactical non-commissioned officer, or TAC NCO, explains that the academy serves to develop youth into leaders.

"What we're doing is making future leaders and instilling skills into our students so that they can be great," he said.

As an instructor at Portville Military Academy, Valdivia elaborates on utilizing the California Cadet Corps curriculum to cultivate the next generation of leaders.

"First and foremost, we're almost like standard teachers, but implementing California Cadet Corps curriculum - teaching military bearing, wear of the uniform and customs and courtesies," he said.

Valdivia explained that fostering a positive presence and cultivating relationships with cadets is crucial.

"Each day in the hallway, I'm building that rapport with students, checking in to see how their day is have to show them that you're there for them outside of the classroom and that you care," he explained. "I've even gone to some of their football games just to show that I care."

With a decade of prior experience at Grizzly Youth Academy, Valdivia explained that despite the differences in programs, both institutions share the common goal of positively shaping the youth of California.

"We create pathways and help align them with their interests," he said.

Valdivia expressed that the daily gratification of witnessing cadets actively engaged in learning and striving to improve themselves is personally rewarding for him.

Upon completing the academy, cadets are positioned for success, equipped to pursue an education at four-year universities or embark on vocational paths like aviation.

Valdivia signified the importance of youth having access to mentors, saying, "Growing up, I did go on the wild side a little bit because I didn't have a mentor or guidance -- having a big brother or big sister mentor can make all the difference."