Brendan Yu
Curry Coastal Pilot

Brookings-Harbor High School senior Cody Testa was recently one of 100 students across the nation named a Semper-Fidelis All-American and chosen to attend the Battles Won Academy in Washington D.C. from July 14-16.

To be selected as a Semper Fidelis All-American, candidates must be at least a junior in high school, have a 3.5 GPA or higher, be active in their community and on a varsity sports team. Brookings-Harbor High baseball head coach Keith Wallin explained that he nominated Testa, who fulfilled those requirements, on account of his work ethic and attitude.

“Cody’s really been putting in a lot of work, not just in baseball, but in the classroom and in the community,” Wallin said. “The last calendar year; (he’s) really shown a different type of dedication both on and off the field. He’s a teacher’s assistant over at Kalmiopsis, and loves working with the kids over there; he’s got a job and is making good money for himself, and keeps up on his grades. He just has rededicated himself to getting out of Brookings and doing some really, really good things with his life.

“His decision-making is paying off, and this was just an opportunity to see if we could acknowledge him outside of the community. Luckily, people who don’t even know him saw some things that we see everyday.”

The U.S. Marine Corps has hosted the Semper-Fidelis All-American Bowl for the past five years, an exhibition game that showcased the top 100 high school prospects in the country. Last September, the decision was made to change the program from being football-centered to include of male and female athletes from other sports.

Throughout the course of the three-day academy, which served as a leadership seminar, the 97 attendees were divided into 16 teams and assigned a Marine mentor who guided them in a litany of teambuilding and athletic exercises. Testa and his fellow attendees visited the Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia, partook in a fitness challenge at the Under Armour’s headquarters, volunteered in a community service project in Baltimore, and capped off the trip with a scavenger hunt in DC at the National Mall. The seminar also included several speakers, including baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. and NFL running back Christian McCaffrey.

Testa, who will be a senior this fall, described the experience as a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”

“I was really stoked and honored that my coach would nominate me for that because I had no idea about it. I thought it was just a football All-American (program) because that’s what it used to be,” said Testa, who was named first team Far West League this year. “This is the first year that it’s all athletes, boys and girls. I was pretty excited about it.”

While a strong GPA and extracurricular resume are needed to be nominated, those are just minimum requirements. According to the program website, the most critical part of the selection process if whether or not a nominee has demonstrated “a fighting spirit that improves the lives of their fellow citizens.”

Testa noted during the course of the academy, the topic of the fighting spirit of the Marine Corps was one that was repeatedly brought up.

“The Marine fighting spirit is when all odds are against you, you still find a way to come out on top,” Testa explained. “So when everything goes to the dirt and you’re just on the bottom, the Marines always find a way to get on top.”

Although Testa has no plans to enlist in the Marine Corps, he has already demonstrated plenty of the fighting spirit expected of a Marine.

A few years ago, Testa’s world was turned upside down when his parents divorced. In the span of the next two weeks, his grandmother passed away, and his grandfather was diagnosed with cancer soon after. Testa, who had yet to enter his freshman year of high school, had to quickly grow up.

“It was just me, my brother and my mom,” said Testa, who works 35 hours a week at Sebastians Bar and Grill. “I was kind of taking care of the house, trying to be that father figure for my brother. It was extra hard just because that was my dad for 15 years with my family, so it was kind of hard to see him leave like that. I’m still overcoming stuff today: I’m working cause I have a single mom, and I have to work hard everywhere (I) go.

“It’s a lot of work, and I just try to keep pushing cause I don’t want to fall through the cracks. I want to keep pushing myself and making sure my mom and brother are happy.”

Testa wasn’t the only to face challenging circumstances, as many of his fellow All-Americans also overcame similar adverse situations.

“I thought I had it hard but some people had it harder,” Testa explained. “To see how they are still striving to become what they want to become and not let it bring them down; I thought it was great. Everyone was just so excited to be there, and everyone’s so competitive.”

Since attending the academy, Testa has only become more motivated about achieving his goal to play baseball collegiately and earning a business degree while supporting his family. To make his dreams a reality, Testa understands the only real potential obstacle he could face would be himself.

“A lot of people say it can’t happen, but I always push myself so that it can happen. I’ll just keep pushing and pushing, only I can tell myself that it can’t happen.”