From kindergarten onward, Hunter Gomez’ idea of play was different from that of a lot of kids.
“My uncle always had computer parts around,” Hunter said. “It was how he entertained me. As a kid, it was cool to have all these different pieces. You could take it apart and put it together again.”
Building computers evolved into Hunter earning Boy Scout merit badges in computer science, then earning Microsoft Specialist certification with knowledge gained in the International Baccalaureate Program at Ray High School.
Hunter joined the Navy Junior ROTC as a freshman at Ray High School. His junior year, he joined the NJROTC CyberPatriot Team, which competes against other high schools to find and secure vulnerabilities in simulated computer operating systems. Ray won its division competition that year and placed second in Texas. His senior year, Hunter has advanced to the role of CyberPatriot team commander and leads his teammates in weekly training for the upcoming season.
Because of his skill and leadership in computer science, Hunter is a winner of the 2016 Caller-Times/Citgo Distinguished Scholars in the technology category. He is ranked 98 of 477 in his class at Ray High School, with a 3.71 grade-point average.
Hunter’s scouting accomplishments include attaining the rank of Eagle Scout, founding an honor guard that bears colors at local funerals and processions, and leading Order of the Arrow, a Boy Scouts honor society.
The structure of scouting helped him prepare for NJROTC, Hunter said.
“Our program is about teaching leadership,” said Bill Hughes, senior naval science instructor at Ray. “Lots of kids take that you have to yell at people and tell them what to do all the time. Hunter had a more quiet demeanor; he doesn’t get excited about things. He leads by example. He persuades people rather than directing them.”
Hunter also gives back. He volunteers weekly for his former Boy Scout troop and also volunteers at The Cattery shelter, where he built three cat shelters for rescued animals. He has a love of baking, which he has channeled into making peppermint cookies for bake sales and elaborate fondant cakes for friends.
As a 17-year-old, Hunter still feels the joy that first drew him to computer science.
“It’s sort of a game,” he said. “You have to gain basic intuition and go off your knowledge and figure it out. You have to be a little detective.”
Hunter is applying to Texas A&M University, following the tradition of his mom, Melissa Gomez. He hopes to study information technology and join the Corps of Cadets.