Eighth-grade science students at Our Redeemer Lutheran School learned that it's never too early to start thinking about the future when a midshipman from the U.S. Naval Academy visited the class on Monday, Nov. 24.
Austin (A.J.) VanDellen, 19, shared his story of enrolling in the U.S. Naval Academy, based in Annapolis, Maryland, in 2013. VanDellen is an alumni of Our Redeemer, and his father, Jim VanDellen, is a science teacher there.
According to his father, VanDellen knew he wanted to enroll in the Naval Academy as a freshman at Milwaukee Lutheran High School. It was a good thing he started planning early, Jim VanDellen said. The year Austin applied, the Naval Academy received 18,000 applications and accepted only 1,100 kids.
"The earlier you think about it, the sooner you can position yourself to be successful," said Jim VanDellen.
The Naval Academy sends students to their home towns to conduct class visits, known as operations information. Austin VanDellen visited six classes at multiple high schools during a three-day visit. He spoke to Rufus King, Lake County Lutheran and Marquette University High School students.
Austin VanDellen said the benefit of speaking to kids this young is that it allows them to get their questions answered. He said that when he applied, he had many questions that never got answered.
"It's better to talk with an actual person than just the Internet," said VanDellen.
Students probed VanDellen on the living conditions of the Naval Academy, which serves as "college plus" for the Wauwatosa native. Upon graduation in 2017, VanDellen will receive a Bachelor of Arts degree in science.
A large part of the discussion was to push students to consider a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) camp that the Naval Academy hosts in the summer.
"We'd like to see some kids apply for that," said Jim VanDellen.
Jim VanDellen recently worked with the Center of Influence Program, which educates school administrators about the application process, undergraduate opportunities and career options that the Naval Academy offers. The goal is for VanDellen to engage and interact with "the best and brightest" middle school students to inform them of the opportunities.
While Austin VanDellen spoke about his regimented schedule, work out routines, Arabic class and power rifle team, what he favored most were the people.
"The people are the best part of being at the academy. I wanted to push myself and serve my country, but it's literally like another family," said VanDellen.
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