FORT MILL TOWNSHIP — While some students are wrapping up exams, beginning summer jobs and starting their summer with a week at the beach, three Fort Mill students will be packing their bags for a week experiencing the rigors of military academy life.
Ben Drake, a junior at Nation Ford High School, was one of approximately 500 students selected for West Point’s Summer Leader’s Experience. The program allows juniors in high school a chance to see what life is like as a cadet at West Point. It includes academic classes, physical fitness and military training.
“I expect it to be hard, definitely, but I expect the other students to be like minded people and I hope to meet people with high ambitions and goals,” Drake said.
Drake, who is active in the Nation Ford High School band, hopes that his admittance into the Summer Leader Experience will help him when he applies to attend West Point after high school. In order to be accepted to the Summer Leader Experience, candidates have to submit the first two sections of the West Point application, so Drake is already several steps ahead in the process.
“I’ve always wanted to push for the best and there is no better place to foster those leadership skills,” Drake said.
Juniors Nathan Kunzie, of Nation Ford High School, and Clay Pratt, of Fort Mill High School, were both selected to attend the Naval Academy Summer Seminar. Similar to the summer program at West Point, the Summer Seminar exposes students to life at the U.S. Naval Academy.
The Summer Seminar typically only admits about 1,200 students, according to Colonel Sean Mulcahy, Senior Marine Instructor of the JROTC program at Nation Ford High School.
“It’s very selective. Only the top kids across the country. It’s very difficult to get in,” Mulcahy said. “Sometimes it’s tougher to get into Summer Seminar than an appointment, not that an appointment is easy.”
The program includes leadership seminars, physical fitness programs, team building exercises, as well as a night that shows students what being a “plebe,” a first-year student, is like.
Kunzie, a JROTC student and fencer in the junior Olympics, knows that the Naval Academy “plebe” year is notoriously difficult, and he’s ready for it. He doesn’t expect the small taste of Naval Academy life to change his mind about attending the school. Kunzie has already his mind made up: he knows he wants to attend the Naval Academy.
“It’s just the kind of person I am. I thrive in highly regimented things. I do well in that situation. I’m not sure what I’d do with myself in free time that a traditional college experience would offer,” he said.
Pratt, active in the student council and Beta Club, is considering several military schools post-high school and was excited to be accepted to the Naval Academy Summer Seminar.
“I just want to see what it’s like. To be there, and see the environment,” Pratt said.
He isn’t sure yet which branch of the armed forces he wants to be part of but he is considering several military academies to attend after high school.
During the Summer Seminar, Pratt will have the opportunity to take some courses that interest him, including one in submarine technology and another in advanced mathematics.
“I’m not sure what I want to do in the military, but that’s where I want to be. I think it’s important to me to serve my country,” Pratt said.