Lancer Spotlight: Editor, Air Force, and Hostess: The sky is not the limit for senior Valerie Ducos

Renaissance Woman: Ducos seeks Air Force career.


Sarah Sedillo (co-worker)

Valerie updating orders while answering the phone.

Senior Valerie Ducos juggles the tasks of being the Editor of the Watermark, a hostess at Green Turtle and Rita’s Ice, as well as now adding a future goal of joining the Air Force to her list.


“I am enlisting into DEP (the Delayed Enlistment Program). This means I will officially be enlisted, but will be sent to basic training at a later date, since I would have to go after I graduate high school. MEPS also asks how long you want your contract for: either 4 active 4 reserve or 6 active 2 reserve. It is important to weigh the pros and cons of each contract before you commit to one,” said Ducos.

The Air Force is the third largest branch (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Space Force) with 328,255 active duty and 20.9% are women.

“To be honest I originally was not fond of the idea of enlisting. If you were to tell me a year ago I was doing this, I would not believe you. I was set on going the traditional way of going to college, maybe doing community college and transferring after two years. It’s weird because right now I would be applying to colleges & looking for apartments, but now I don’t know if I can attend UMD because I may be stationed in a different state. My dad ended up persuading me to join. He thought it was a good idea to help uplift my life,” said Ducos.

Parents Jose Ducos and Dalia Castro recognize that their daughter has chosen an exciting future.

“Although I didn’t want her to enlist, I am still supportive of it and I believe it takes courage to enlist. I am proud of her because she is a well-behaved, hard-working, intelligent student and good daughter, and she doesn’t cause any problems outside the house,” said Dalia Castro, Ducos.

“I want her to enlist because it will give her prospects for a better future and help acquire important life skills that will be valuable for the rest of her life. Yes, I am proud of her because she’ll be like me, serving for the country and contributing positively to the endeavors of humanity,” said Jose Ducos. 

The sense of responsibility and service runs in the family. Great great grandfather, Eugenio Ducos: Air Force Federal Civilian Employee, Great grandfather, Jose Benito Ducos; Hero in 1918 San Fermín earthquake and tsunami, saved several, earned medals, and honors for his actions. Grandfather, Jose Ducos; Airforce, Father, Jose Rafael Ducos; Army Air Aviation, Brother, Juan Carlos Ducos; Army National Guard, and now Valerie Ducos; Airforce.

“My dad was in the army for 6 years. He served in 3 wars: Gulf, Bosnian and Somali. He was a pilot in the Army and suffered through many injuries that still affect his current life. My oldest brother served in the National Guard Army for 6 years.”

“My brother joined the National Guard Army as reserve duty when he was 17, he went to Oklahoma for basic training. He’s job in the Army was 13F (Fire Support Specialist) which helped set up & operate communications systems, decode messages, assist in fire support plans, and basically took part in the intelligence activities of the artillery team. He majored in Computer Science and his major job was working at Discovery as an IT and is currently an IT manager at Capital Bank headquarters. He served for 6 years (he recently got out).”


Ducos set off the school year by applying to be an officer for NEHS (National English Honor Society). Unsurprisingly, Ducos was given the role of Editor of the Watermark. 

“The Watermark Blog is called The Watermark Makerspace, the first article will be posted soon. My main goal is to expand The Watermark beyond just writing submissions and to more students in FCPS,” said Ducos.  

Ducos has sparked a new sense of awareness, never seen before on The Watermark. “Through personal experience I find that most of my creative writing stems from my personal experiences, difficulties, and obstacles. We live in a society where we have strayed from being understanding and just focusing on one topic at a time.”

Last month included a prompt related to Suicide Prevention. “Our prompt was not about suicide, but about overcoming an obstacle we have faced. We are scared to have a discussion with others about depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts we need to get help for. I don’t want to normalize having mental health issues because it is obviously not a good thing, I want to normalize having the conversation about it. I personally know many people who struggle but feel they are a burden to others.” 

As teenage superwoman, Ducos is sure to capture the feelings of others on her blog, as well as tap into her own personal life to create prompts for all.

“Our current theme for October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Bullying seems like such a middle school stereotype, but it is real and it does affect self-confidence. I want these conversations to be normalized. Ten years ago people wouldn’t even think that my brother had a disability, just that he was ‘not normal’. Now people have educated themselves.”

Ducos’ doesn’t stop there. It extends beyond school and clubs but work. 

At 4’ 11, this pint sized Lancer is a teenage superwoman. (courtesy of Jose Ducos)


“Working two jobs is essentially working full time. Most weeks I can work up to 30-40 hours, depending on the work schedule.”

It’s a struggle for teens to balance school and their part-time job, but imagine balancing school work along with having the responsibility of working 30+ hours a week for two different companies. 

Ducos working hard as hostess at Green Turtle.

“It’s crazy because I am an officer for three of my honor societies. I now say ‘I’m answering emails’ or ‘I have meetings today’ because I am a very committed person who puts 110% effort into everything. Being a perfectionist is good when it comes to doing work, but it’s also a downfall in my case. Everything I do has to be done correctly and a certain way. So sometimes I put too much pressure on myself because I add or commit to more work I simply don’t have time for.”

“I’m really impressed with her independent approach to school and life. She does not rely on her teachers to ensure she knows the material or her parents to make decisions for her future. She takes the initiative she needs to master her classes, excel in her extracurriculars and lead her to the Air Force, or wherever she goes after high school,” said Samira Diggs, social studies teacher. 

“Planning, time management, dedication, and being a perfectionist. Juggling all these responsibilities can seem either easy or overwhelming to others, and, to be honest, most of the time it can get overwhelming. This is why planning ahead is so so important! I usually plan by months, first by always putting in my work schedule, I always put specific days in my work availability for my managers so that my work schedules don’t overlap. For school I try to turn in everything early,” said Ducos. 

As Valerie constructs prompts about mental health to guide others, she also taps into her own sense of self-awareness, being able to see when she needs help and when it’s time to take a break.

Ducos is known for her work ethic.

“Her character. This encompasses so much of what I admire about Valerie. She is honest, diligent, kind and bright. I wouldn’t say every subject comes easy to Val, but she puts in more effort than most any other student to master and understand the material. When I’ve asked her advice on how something new is working in class, she gives me her honest answer. And for such a high achieving student, I’ve never worried about her taking shortcuts or cheating on assignments,” said Diggs.

“The most impressive thing for me is how Valerie allows herself to experience new things – variety in her classes, work experience, clubs/organizations, etc. She utilizes all of this information so that she can make educated decisions, which has ultimately led to her decision to enlist in the Air Force,” said Christopher O’Brien.

“Valerie is incredibly resilient, intelligent, thoughtful, and kind. She will do amazing things, no matter where she ends up in life!”

The great things to say about Ducos extend far beyond counslers and teacher but extended to parents. 

“Valerie is an EXTREMELY hardworking individual, as I see her I just think ‘WOW!’ This little munchkin is gonna make it big someday,” said Margaret Apau, LHS parent.

This modern day woman of the Renaissance has a bright future in front of her.

Check out this month’s edition of the Watermark: