Only a select group of our nation's finest young people have that inner drive to tackle the rigorous studies and training of the Air Force Academy.

Ryan Kleintop has added his name to the elite list of first-year cadets at the prestigious military school. A senior at Palmerton Area High School, Kleintop recently signed his letter of intent to attend the academy in Colorado Springs as a member of the Class of 2014.

Kleintop, 18, said he is extremely proud of his achievement, and noted the appointment is awarded to only about 1,500 out of 10,000 applicants.

"It's a huge accomplishment," Kleintop said. "It's a lot of work; to finally reach it was huge."

Kleintop thanked his coaches and scout leader, Blaine House, as well as high school advisers Audrey Larvey and Michelle Muffley and guidance counselor Vicki McHugh.

A member of Troop 209, Kleintop earned his Eagle's Scout for a project in which he built an outdoor classroom at Towamensing Elementary. The project took him from June to September in 2007.

Kleintop said he received many donations from local businesses, such as Forest Inn Masonry and Scotty's Fashions.

The list of accolades Kleintop has accrued over the years is rather impressive, specifically the fact that he's been class president in each of his four years.

In addition, Kleintop is a member of the National Honor Society and FBLA, ranks 14th in his academic class, and is a member of the Palmerton Rod & Gun Club.

Whether it was soccer, basketball or track, Kleintop was no slouch on the athletic fields either, as he was a Colonial League Scholastic Athlete honoree.

The son of Gary and Nadine Kleintop, Ryan is fully aware of the challenges that await him.

Gary Kleintop said his son has earned every ounce of success he's had.

"We're just proud," he said. "People don't realize the work he goes through."

Nadine Kleintop said she and her husband couldn't ask for a better son.

"We've always been proud of him, and support him," she said. "We're not thrilled he's going so far away."