Epic Charter School has exceptional students. The young learners attending our original school in Oklahoma have defied norms and pushed boundaries. They’re anything but average. Take Seth Cannon, for instance. Salutatorian of his graduating class and recipient of a full NCAA scholarship for gymnastics, Cannon’s life has been marked by achievement most could only aspire to. But, just days after graduation, this young man embarked on a journey few would dare.

As one of only 1,218 students accepted to the 2018 graduating class of the United States Military Academy at West Point, Cannon’s adventure began with a heartfelt sendoff as he shared bittersweet tears with his family – especially his mother and Epic Charter Schools teacher Kristi Rich.

Just 90 seconds.

Upon arrival at the academy, cadets are inducted in groups of 40. It’s at this time that only one family member is allowed to accompany each cadet.

Rich and Cannon

Of course, as any mother would, Kristi joined Seth for this final moment.

“I can’t put it into words! The entire moment was a blur,” says Rich. “We were there just a short while and I can’t remember what was said. My heart was just sinking. This is my boy…my first born and only son,” she says.

“That’s when we were told we had only 90 seconds to say our goodbyes…90 SECONDS. What? That’s all,” she exclaims. “We hugged and I held it together. I guess I thought I needed to be strong for him.”

After those brief 90 seconds, Seth and the other 39 cadets in his group were ushered through a set of double doors where intense training and conditioning began…the very second the doors closed.

How would he fare? After all, many young cadets return home only a few short weeks later. 

During the first six weeks, Cannon endured basic training, known as BEAST Training. In BEAST, squads participate in the Walker Challenge, a 3.5 mile exercise testing them physically and academically along with weapons and tactical training. Cannon’s squad came out on top, besting 127 other squads competing in the challenge.

Bravo Company, Cannon’s company of approximately 120 men and women, won all of BEAST. They were awarded by the General at a special assembly and lead the squads in the 13-mile march returning from Camp Buckner carrying the banner featuring the Class of 2018 motto, “With Strength We Lead.”

During BEAST Training, each student competes in a variety of physically challenges. Cannon received a perfect score on combat shooting and tested expert in target shooting. In fact, he placed 2nd overall in shooting.

But, it should come as no surprise Cannon finished as leader in every obstacle course throughout the six-week training. (It’s that gymnastics thing…remember?)

“BEAST is just a little harder than summer camp. It was way too easy,” Cannon laughs. “I told my mom that I’m more scared of her than anything here.”

Cannon may have tamed BEAST, but the academic year hit hard mid-August.  Carrying 21 credit-hours along with intensive training as a competitive gymnast, the rigor could not be more intense.

As a competitive gymnast, Cannon will be competing on the West Point Men’s Gymnastics team. Cannon occupies one of four All Around positions; meaning he will compete all six events and at every NCAA Division 1 competition. (Side note: The NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Championships will be held in Oklahoma April 9-11 at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman.) Seth Cannon BEAST

Preparation matters.

West Point practices the Thayer Method of education. This method means that students read, teach themselves, and complete their assignments before going to class to be taught by the instructor.

Cannon says, “Being in Epic throughout high school was similar so the transition is easier for me than others.”

“Time is flying now,” he says. “All I do is study, train, and spend time with Victoria [his girlfriend]. I wish I had more time to eat and sleep, though. I guess you rest when you die.”

“It will all be worth it in the end,” he says. “Coming out of West Point, my future is very promising.”




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Epic Charter School is a free TK-12 public school committed to providing students and families in Southern California a learning environment that meets the individual needs of students. The Epic Charter School model began in Oklahoma and has grown to more than 20,000 students enrolled for the 2018-19 school year. Students in Southern California have the opportunity to enroll in Epic’s California school.

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