LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — Many high school seniors are now getting acceptance letters from colleges and news about valuable scholarships they’ve won. Among the most valuable scholarships and educational experiences are ones that often don’t come to mind for many of us — four years of full-ride study and room and board and regular pay at one of the nation’s military service academies.
This week’s FOX 4 Reaching 4 Excellence Young Achievers are nine graduating seniors who all earned service academy appointments. And amazingly they all are from the same metro area high school.
As they stride together shoulder-to-shoulder through the halls of Leavenworth High School for a video shoot for this FOX 4 NEWS report, they almost resemble a team of superheroes — strong, smart, determined — ready to take on any challenge. They certainly are super — super seniors who have excelled in academics and athletics, the arts, community service and student life and leadership.
Each one of them is a remarkable and compelling individual success story. And each one of them has earned one of the most sought-after and exclusive college opportunities. One by one, they announced their good news for the FOX 4 camera.
“Joseph Kim, United States Military Academy.”
“Cliff Hodges, Junior, West Point.”
“Alex Waugh, United States Military Academy.”
“Lauren Patelli, Appointment to the Naval Academy Prep School.”
“JT Core, United State Military Academy at West Point.”
“Emily Ross, United States Military Academy.”
“Preston Padgett, Merchant Marine Academy.”
“Mark Dabeck, United States Military Academy.”
Along with Paul Carbrey who got an appointment to West Point, that makes nine seniors from Leavenworth High getting official offers to attend one of the nation’s military service academies.
“Not only is it a great educational institute but it’s also a great leadership institute,” says JT Core.
“I’ve worked very hard not only in the gym but also in the classroom,” says Preston Padgett. “I took very hard courses, AP courses, to get where I’m at now.”
“Finally getting the opportunity to go there, it’s just amazing,” says Alex Waugh. “All the hard work pays off. And everyone knows how that feels.”
As you might expect at a high school in a city with a large, historic U.S. Army post, most of these appointees have strong military roots in their families. And many of them set their sights years ago on getting into one of the academies.
“I’ve enjoyed growing up in an Army family,” says Cliff Hodges; Jr. “It’s not a bad life to live. And I want to serve, too, like my dad served.”
“I can’t wait for it,” says Mark Dabeck. “High school was great but I’m definitely looking forward to this new chapter in my life because hopefully the military is something I’ll make a career of. So this is definitely the entry path into it and something I want to take very seriously.”
At any high school, having even one student get a service academy appointment is reason for celebration. A few, like Leavenworth High, will often have more than one each year. But a spokesperson for West Point says nine is a very unusually high number that few schools in the nation match or exceed.
“I think it’s great but I’m not surprised,” says Emily Ross. “This class year, so many students are great. And you can ask the teachers and they’ll tell you the same thing. Every now and then there’s a class year that just has phenomenal students. And I definitely see that in all my peers.”
Getting an appointment to one of the military service academies is no easy task. More than 15,000 high school students every year apply to West Point alone and just 1200 of them report as cadets.
“I’m a little nervous,” says Joseph Kim, “but I’m also excited to be among a community who is willing to help me push myself past my limits and become the officer I’ve always dreamed of being since I was a kid.”
“I expect this to be extremely life-changing, Says Lauren Patelli. “I think that after everyone embarks on this, it just opens up the world. So it’s going to be completely different than what we’ve all known. It’s our adventure now.”
It’s an adventure of education, service and leadership that begins in late June or early July when seniors who accept their appointments report for basic training to the various service academies — weeks before classes actually begin in the fall.
In addition to these nine seniors who got appointments, Leavenworth High School reports that a 2011 graduate, Alex Zeck, completed his year at the U.S. Military Academy Prep School in Marion, Alabama and received word that he’s been formally accepted now into West Point, too.
FOX 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism.
Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Monday on FOX 4 News at 8 a.m., every Wednesday on FOX 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on FOX 4 News at 5 p.m.