There are many high schools that host college fairs. Few, though, have held educational fairs for the nation's five elite military academies.
Winter Park High School held the 2018 Military Academy Day Tuesday, May 1, in its Ninth Grade Center gymnasium. The event, hosted by U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy’s office, had hundreds of families learning about how to join the service academies that groom students into military officers. Murphy was present to meet the students and give advice.
“You can kind of think of it like a college fair where different groups come and provide information, but it’s focused on service academies,” Murphy said. “It’s such a great experience to see so many people in our community interested in public service.”
Unlike other schools, the process for joining a service academy is a complex one. On top of needing strong test scores and participation in extracurricular activities, students also must receive a nomination from a government official, often a member of Congress. Murphy, who has served as a national security specialist in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense, takes a look at the academy applications with a board of advisers and calls up the few chosen for nomination each year.
As to be expected with a school that has a strong Navy ROTC, many of Winter Park High’s students gravitated towards speaking to representatives from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. One such student was Will Megginson, a Winter Park High junior who has been preparing for his application for some time.
“With a military academy, you’re committing to five years of service,” Megginson said. “Which to some can be a turn-off but to me is a great opportunity to serve my country and get a free education at the same time.”
Megginson grew up hearing military stories from his father, who served in the 82nd Airborne. When it was time to start looking at colleges, Megginson turned toward the Naval Academy because of his time at the Winter Park rowing team. He wants to work on a submarine’s nuclear reactor — his favorite subject is physics — and hopes the academy can get him there.
Lake Howell senior Thomas Sonnie knows what he wants to be — a leader.
“I’m committed to being an infantry officer in the (U.S.) Army; I don’t want to do anything else,” said Thomas Sonnie. “A lot of people are surprised; they asked me if I had any backup plans. I applied to one school, and that’s West Point Academy.”
Although the gymnasium was full of students hoping to be accepted into one of the five academies, Sonnie already received his acceptance letter to West Point during his class at Lake Howell just a few weeks ago. Like many of the students at the event, Sonnie comes from a family with military experience. His great-grandfather was a World War II pilot buried at Arlington National Cemetery, and his grandfather was part of a film crew with the U.S. Marines in Vietnam.
Sonnie, who was at the event to tell other students about West Point, said the bravery and intelligence of special forces units was what inspired him to join a military academy. He already has a multi-year plan in place. He wants his work at West Point to lead to a position with the SFAS and, eventually, becoming a captain in the Green Berets.
“Things can always change but I’m pretty committed to my plan, I hope it works out,” he said.
United States Military Academy at West Point
United States Coast Guard Academy at New London
United States Naval Academy at Annapolis
United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point
United States Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs