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Students consider military academies

September 27, 2009|By DAVE McMILLION

HEDGESVILLE, W.Va. -- It's the time of year when officials start looking for the right kind of high school students to go into the nation's military academies.

The schooling at the academies is rigorous and getting accepted is tricky, officials said Sunday at Hedgesville High School during an academy day hosted by U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

To have the best chance at landing a spot at one of the academies, military officials told local high school students to challenge themselves throughout high school, take difficult classes and get good grades.

Those determining who will be accepted into the academies are looking for students who are involved in extracurricular activities, have exposed themselves to different environments and who are active in sports.

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"They look for the elite student. It is no easy route," said Dan Effland, a representative of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.

The other academies represented at the school were the U.S. Air Force Academy, U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Naval Academy and U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

About 75 parents, students and military officials gathered at the high school to hear about the military programs.

Students who are lucky enough to be admitted into the schools get a scholarship, said Capito. In return, graduating students give about eight years of service to their respective military field, she said.

Members of Congress are getting the word out now about upcoming openings in the academies, Capito said. Prospective academy students are seniors this year and will find out in January if they have been admitted to one of the academies, Capito said.

With the exception of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, entry into the other academies requires a recommendation from a member of Congress, officials said. Capito declined to say Sunday how many academy slots she can make recommendations for, adding that the numbers vary.

The academies aim to shape leaders and officers for the military, and academy students can study areas such as civil, electrical and environmental engineering, information technology and physics.

Although high school seniors compete for academy openings, younger students were at Hedgesville High School to learn about the requirements.

Dan Myers of Shepherdstown, W.Va., who is a junior at Jefferson High School, said he is interested in the U.S. Military Academy or the U.S. Naval Academy. Myers said he likes civil engineering and hopes to design facilities like bridges or to teach.

Justin Leaton, 15, of Shenandoah Junction, W.Va., started getting interested in the military and flying when he was about 6 years old. His parents were supportive of his interests and helped him get involved in the Civil Air Patrol, through which he has been able to take the controls of a Cessna 182 plane.

"I really want to serve my country," Leaton said.

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