Written by Keegan, #4
Going into high school, I was following in the footsteps ingrained in the hallways by Kelly’s stilettos; she had marched out of there as class president and with a full ride to Georgetown University. I’m not usually one to be intimidated, but it
was a little daunting starting high school after 4 years of hearing, “Mom I got an A on…”
Luckily, someone gave me some great advice a couple weeks before freshman year started. Gary Hoyt, who recently retired after a long and successful career as Athletic Director of Cheverus High School, told me to ‘blaze my own trail and not worry about what my three older siblings had done’. They had all
thrived and headed off to great Jesuit universities. During the first couple years of high school, I generally assumed I would go to a Jesuit college and follow my siblings’ path.
It wasn’t until the summer before junior year that Mom and Kelly planted a seed in my head that would sprout and grow enthusiastically. We were driving to drop Kelly off at Georgetown when we passed the exit for West Point. After initially brushing off the idea of going to a military academy when they broached the subject, I started to think about it more and more. It would be a challenge; that was for sure. I thought back to what Mr. Hoyt had told me…
I could definitely blaze my own trail to a military academy and stamp my own name on my high school career. While I took pride in being “another Thomas to graduate from Cheverus,” I wanted people to ask, “What has Keegan Thomas accomplished?”
During junior year, I continued to explore the possibility of service and the military. I realized about halfway through the school-year that, while my grades were good and I was pretty involved in extracurricular activities, I lacked that ‘it’ factor that so many cadets possess. At a service academy info night, a table with a National Guard flag draped
patriotically across it caught my eye. I started talking to the recruiters there and made sure they knew that West Point was my end goal. They told me I could enlist, go to basic training the summer before my senior year of high school, and apply for a prior service slot to West Point.
It was a path that was much easier said than done. I spent the next couple months trying to discern what I wanted to do…which transitioned into what I needed to do. West Point was what I truly wanted, and enlisting and applying for a prior service slot was a surefire way to get in.
And so, as the rest of my classmates went to the beach and took summer jobs before senior year, I dove, literally and figuratively, into the dirt of Fort Leonard Wood “lost-in-the-wood”, Missouri
and spent ten weeks doing Basic Training.
While my family was camping and enjoying the beautiful Maine summer, I was doing ruck marches and “experiencing” a gas chamber. I had my head shaved and learned the invaluable lesson of having ABSOLUTELY no opinion that mattered.
It was difficult being away from home for so long, and the process was painful, but I got through it.
Fast-forward to January of senior year, when I got the call that I had been working towards for two years…I had gotten in. I would not be attending a Jesuit college and having a more traditional college experience. I would have a second summer of sweat and dirt followed by four years of uncomfortable uniforms, room inspections, hospital corners, and endless homework…but it was what I wanted and what I had worked for.
The main takeaway I’ve gotten from my experience is to not be influenced by what your older siblings did or what the people around you do. Learn from them, of course, but know that what you do is entirely up to you. I learned I didn’t have to get a full ride to Georgetown or get into the honors program at Boston College (I actually got denied from
BC) to make the parents proud.
Take control of your future, own your path, and do what you need to do. Let yourself be motivated by pride…It sounds like arrogance but having pride in your future is a powerful motivator and can result in your doing extraordinary things.