Student earns Naval appointment

HOWLAND — High school senior Michael Schaefer said a trip to Europe during his sophomore year inspired him to join the armed forces.

“I realized how big the world was,” Schaefer said. “Before I thought I was a big fish in a small pond — what kid doesn’t think they’re the whole world?”

Schaefer this year earned an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy, the equivalent of a $450,000 full-ride college scholarship, complete with room and board and a stipend. He said he wanted to “become something bigger” than himself.

Schaefer said during the summer of his junior year he attended the Honeywell Leadership Challenge Academy, a space leadership camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., There, he met an astronaut who worked as a test pilot — a job Schaefer wanted.

Schaefer said he was going to join the U.S. Air Force to achieve his goal, but the astronaut told him to join the U.S. Navy.

“He said the Navy produces more pilots, which is something I didn’t know,” Schaefer said.

Schaefer attended the Navy summer session, foregoing the Air Force summer session to attend American Legion Buckeye Boys State, a conference in which students participate in a mock government.

Schaefer said when he was younger, he wanted to be an astronaut.

“You grow up and realize your goals seem further away than you think,” said Schaefer, adding that for awhile he abandoned his dream. Now, he plans to study astronautical engineering or physics at the Naval Academy, and says becoming an astronaut isn’t out of the question.

The application process was rigorous, he said, and included many interviews, a congressional appointment and medical and physical tests, along with the standard college entrance material. This year, more than 16,000 applicants vied for 1,200 academy spots.

Schaefer’s parents are supportive of his choice, he said, especially because it comes with a free college education.

Schaefer was recognized at the May 20 Howland board of education meeting with an official presentation from Civilian Blue and Gray Officers Lori and Ted Yuhaniak. Superintendent Kevin Spicher also presented Schaefer with a certificate on behalf of the school district and the board.

“He’s a great student and individual,” said Spicher, adding Schaefer was active in the high school student senate.

Schaefer also was a four-year pole vaulter on the high school track team and ran cross county for two years in anticipation of running during naval training, he said.

On June 27, Schaefer will be inducted to the academy and begin six weeks of basic midshipman training as part of Plebe Summer. After graduation he will be committed to five years of service as a commissioned officer placed on merit, he said.

Schaefer said when he leaves the service he hopes to go on to earn a doctorate in his field.

avugrincic@tribtoday.com

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