By Errol Castens | NEMS Daily Journal Oxford Bureau
OXFORD – Officials and students from the nation’s service academies and ROTC programs advised prospective applicants Saturday to start their quest early, play team sports and be a leader.
Congressman Alan Nunnelee sponsored Academy Day at Lafayette High School, drawing high school students and their families from across the First Congressional District.
“Competition is tough. Thousands apply, and only a few are admitted,” Nunnelee said. “It’s exciting to see this number of prospective students.”
U.S. Military Academy Cadet Joey Griggs of Oxford told prospects that some rigors of academy life can seem pointless at first but have a long-term purpose. In memorizing countless minutiae about West Point’s history, military custom and other subjects, he said, “you learn a really acute attention to detail, which is going to help you not only in classes, but as a cadet in general.”
It will also pay off when he enrolls next fall at the University of Mississippi’s School of Medicine.
Even the heavy load of academics, athletics, extracurricular activities and work assignments instill both discipline and judgment.
“Time management is something you’ll get really, really good at,” Griggs said.
Midshipman Lawrence Wiggins agreed with the value of a service academy education – especially at his own U.S. Naval Academy.
“It’s leadership training at its finest; it’s academics; it’s everything,” he said.
U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Nate Mitchener encouraged prospects not to let an unconventional background discourage them.
“I was not a Boy Scout; I was not an athlete. I had long hair and played guitar,” he said. “The whole idea of ‘rigorous military leadership’ – that was not me.” But wanting to fly planes, he said, made a haircut, a strait-laced lifestyle and a heavy workload “more than worth it.”
A.M. Zeidman represented the Parents Clubs of the service academies. He cautioned parents to avoid being too involved.
“Don’t call the academy. It’s a red flag,” he said. “Your son or daughter needs to take ownership of the admissions process.”
Representatives touted the value of ROTC for those who don’t get into a service academy or who want an academic major not offered there. As with the academies, said Maj. George Vinzant of the University of Mississippi’s Army ROTC, preparation for admission should start early in high school.
“We’re looking for scholars, athletes and leaders,” said Maj. George Vinzant of Ole Miss’ Army ROTC program. “(As) a junior or sophomore is when you have time to get ready, to build your resume.”
Tyler Edwards, a senior at Southaven High School, said he’d only recently developed an interest in attending a military academy.
“I’m trying to go to West Point, but I might do the Air Force Academy,” he said. “I would want it to be a career.”