By Capt. Jannelle Allong-DiakabanaJune 20, 2019
WEST POINT, N.Y. -- More than 1,000 rising high school seniors were heard loud and clear calling cadence throughout the cadet barracks, on the way to academic seminars and throughout the West Point training area during Summer Leader Experience June 1-14.
SLE is a weeklong, in two separate iterations, immersion into the cadet experience, helping high school students make informed decisions on college selection.
"West Point trains people to be the best they can be, to be leaders," Jacob Johnston of Cottonwood, California, said. "I want to be the best leader I can."
Johnston is a rising high school senior with strong interests in attending West Point, the U.S. Naval Academy or Stanford University on an ROTC scholarship.
Each year, more than 6,000 applicants compete for the opportunity to attend SLE and experience the rigors of cadet academic, military and physical life.
SLE cadet candidates were distributed among five different platoons between two different iterations during the first weeks of June. They were led by rising cadet juniors and seniors.
Every morning, candidates completed Army Physical Fitness training, followed by academic workshops, character development time and intramural sports.
Avery Vess learned about SLE while attending the similar Naval Academy Summer Seminar last summer.
"I want to be in the military and I want to be a STEM major," Vess said. "There are plenty of opportunities at West Point (to do just that)."
SLE candidates participated in a military orientation day that consisted of combatives training, room clearing, weapons qualification in the Electronic Simulation Training Center, and a tour of the museum and visitors center.
Parents waited anxiously for their high schoolers following their graduation. Maya Florio of Broward County, Florida, said, "(SLE) allows (my daughter) to figure out if this is truly what she wants to do."
Florio said that her daughter's father currently serves in the military and she understands that this is a lifetime commitment.
"I'll be proud in whatever she does, as long as she goes to a university. The choice to attend West Point is entirely up to her," Florio said.
The cost to attend SLE is approximately $400, not including travel fees. This year, scholarships were awarded to approximately 50 candidates in need. Scholarships ranged from a discount on the total SLE fee to full scholarships that paid for the entire SLE and travel to West Point.
Although not all SLE candidates will select West Point as their college of choice, this select group of high school students left the academy with an expanded network of peers, an in-depth college tour and leadership development.
"On average, 40 percent of SLE attendees accept an appointment to West Point," Lt. Col. Rance Lee, associate director in the Directorate of Admissions, said. "This comprises about one-third of each incoming class."
"My favorite part about this experience was meeting new people and making friends and connections," Johnston said.
His advice for future candidates was "have fun, meet new people, make friends, don't fall asleep in class and don't stay up too late."
"I really liked going to the Life Science-Chemistry workshop," Vess said.
She said SLE was a great experience and that those considering should not be anxious about attending because the cadet leadership is great and will take care of the cadet candidates.
Vess and Johnston come from military families and they both finished SLE with West Point as their top choice of colleges.
For more information about SLE, please go to https://westpoint.edu/admissions/summer-program.