At least two Fenwick High School seniors will trade the school’s black and white colors for the Navy’s crisp blue and gold uniforms, when they enter the U.S. Naval Academy next fall in Annapolis, Maryland.
After a nearly year-long application process, Brooke West and Casey McCormick have been accepted into the Naval Academy in fall 2018, which accepts about 9 percent of those who apply. U.S. News & World Report ranked the Naval Academy #2 in the magazine’s 2018 “Top Public Schools” list.
West said she heard about the academy her sophomore year, when a mentor on Fenwick’s swim team applied and was accepted. She was just starting her college process at the time and didn’t really know what she wanted to do.
“I wanted to help people but didn’t know how; I thought about maybe being a doctor,” she said. West contacted the Naval Academy’s swim coaches, toured its Chesapeake Bay campus, and fell in love.
She started her application around April 2017 and finished the essays, and submitted her academic information, state test scores, teacher recommendations and nomination from a government representative that October. She also applied to four other “safety” schools, just in case.
On Halloween night, a big envelope arrived at her parents’ River Forest home. West read her letter of assurance in the kitchen. She has since told the academy’s swim coach she will swim on his Division 1 team.
“I was really overwhelmed,” she recalled. “It’s not just my success, it’s my coaches’ success, my family’s success. I’m just grateful to everybody who put me in this place and gave me this opportunity.”
West attributes her acceptance to her swimming skills along with her high grades and community involvement. She is an English tutor at The Write Place at Fenwick, competes on the school’s math and science team, and, outside of school, serves on the Oak Park-River Forest Youth Board.
“Service has always been a big part of my life, but I’ve never served my country. I’m only 17,” she said. “Going forward, I’m representing a country I owe so much to and I love so much. It’s an opportunity to simultaneously help people domestically and overseas.”
Growing up, Casey McCormick said he always wanted to join the military. He started his application in January 2017 and, a year later on Jan. 23, found out he was admitted.
“I was in math class and we just happened to finish early and I was on my phone and I got an email saying my admissions status is changed,” he said. “I thought, ‘Oh my god, I got denied this early!’ But then I got in. I had to reread it and asked the girl in front of me, ‘Does this say I got in?’ It was crazy, I couldn’t believe it.
“I pretty much skipped the whole next class and called everyone I’ve ever met, my whole family,” he said.
McCormick wants to eventually become an explosive ordnance disposal technician, which means he will travel to some of the most dangerous parts of the world and disable bombs.
“You’re literally dealing with explosives in the middle of the road, so if you mess up, you’re done and everyone around you is probably done,” he said. “I feel like you have to be a certain type of person and I think I have the right personality to go through it. You have to be able to think in tight situations. It’s probably the most exhilarating job you could ever have.”
He points to his experiences as a goalie on the Fenwick hockey team as qualifications, where he successfully defended the net against some of their fiercest rivals, including Glenbrook North, during the state playoffs in February. Fenwick lost, but only 1-0. Normally, he said, the Spartans smoke the Friars by at least six.
“In my academy interview I compared being an explosive ordnance tech to playing goalie because if you’re not prepared enough for the game, you’re going to lose.”
He credits his admission to his sports skills, high grades and community involvement. McCormick is leader of the Fenwick Medical Club, treasurer of the Best Buddies Club, and is involved in the school’s investment club. “Less than 40 days until I leave,” he said.