Do you have a future midshipman in your midst? Know someone young who loves to watch Navy football games, learn about naval history — or even dreams of going to a service academy someday? The Student Youth Leadership Program at the U.S. Naval Academy could be an important opportunity for them to learn more about a future at the Naval Academy — and a smart way to start their journey early.
An Introduction to the USNA
This exceptional program was created several years ago when USNA recognized middle schoolers interested in attending a service academy could benefit tremendously from learning more about USNA, getting a peek into the daily life of midshipmen, and spending time with Naval Academy graduate tour guides and other Navy personnel.
Kids travel from across the country to experience this program. Not only is it a great line for their resume as they pursue postsecondary education options (whether service academy or not), but it also lets the Naval Academy know they are interested. It gives middle schoolers the time to structure their high school career so that they’re prepared for the highly competitive USNA admissions process, one where just approximately seven percent of applicants receive an appointment. Additionally, it’s a fun way to meet other like-minded students and participate in an event at the Yard.
How the Student Youth Leadership Program Works
There are several Naval Academy Youth programs that introduce younger students to life at USNA and help prepare them for future admission. The Naval Academy Summer Seminar (NASS) is designed for rising high school seniors, the Candidate Visit Weekend (CVW) targets high school juniors and seniors and STEM programs address a variety of ages.
The Student Youth Leadership Program is designed for students 13 to 15 years old. It’s held during the summer to give students the best chance to travel to Annapolis. It is a half day event packed full of programs meant to immerse the students in the midshipmen experience. Many have never been to a service academy before, so it’s an entirely new experience. They meet at the Armel-Leftwich Visitor Center and receive a warm welcome by the USNA graduates who are now Navy and Marine Corps officers, as well as certified tour guides — and will lead them through the entire program.
These guides provide a high-level introduction, and then start to delve deeper into the midshipmen experience by introducing candidates to what life is like today for active midshipmen as part of the Brigade. “It really instills in these young students that the mental, moral and physical mission of the Academy really leans on building the concept of leadership through the four years” explains Heather Skipper, NABSD Hospitality Sales Manager.
From there, the students are led on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Yard, exploring locations both important and integral to midshipmen life, including academic areas, academic labs, and training simulators. Students also get to explore other areas that impact the daily lives of midshipmen, like Bancroft Hall, which includes the dorms, laundry service, post office, dining hall and more. These students also get to go into the social and extracurricular areas, including sporting and club facilities. By the end of the program they’ve had a good taste of midshipman life. They even receive official USNA apparel.
Learning the Ropes through Role Play
Then comes the hands-on part, where they are divided into small teams and can role play solutions to a challenging scenario that’s relevant to the life and times of today’s students. For instance, they may have to come up with a solution on how to handle a cheating scandal when they’ve seen several students blatantly cheating on a test. “I’ve observed it several times and it’s just amazing to watch these kids…. How do you handle and make the decisions moving forward from a leadership standpoint so you can positively impact your own students and colleagues and friends?” explains Skipper.
The entire team shares their perspectives. This exercise helps teach the students how to work better as a team and (much like at the Academy) rely on company mates, officers and the chain of command. Additionally it’s a lot of fun. The students must work with a time constraint, so that ratchets up the urgency. They need to arrive at a solution together, and they elect a leader that will present this. Then there’s a Q&A session for all participants. Skipper elaborates, “This can get very lively; you can tell right away that even at a young age these children are looking ahead to their future opportunities and the opportunity to attend a service academy. They jump right in and have wonderful discussions that are focused by our graduates coming from their personal experience who weigh in and offer these key takeaways.” The students are thrilled to earn a Certificate of Completion upon conclusion of the program.
A Step Toward Service
While they are still too young to be actively preparing for college, participants’ information is shared with the Admissions team for further outreach and to see if they have any further questions. Skipper says, “Our Admissions team reaches out to potential candidates across the nation; they have learned that going into the middle school range population is way more helpful because it allows the students to prepare themselves to take the necessary classes that lead to becoming a successful applicant to the U.S. Naval Academy. It sets them on the right path to prepare.”
The program has been quite successful, helping many students pursue the USNA path. Perhaps the best measure is the feedback of those who eventually gained admission. “I have received letters and emails from families that have students that are now current midshipmen or they’re about to commission; they are thanking the tour guide that they toured with here by name. You spark an idea or inspire a younger student that sticks with them and you find out years later that they’re about to commission, which is awesome to hear,” says Skipper.
Interested in Attending?
Now is the time to sign up! Head here for the registration link. Dates for 2023 are July 8, July 29 and August 12. You must register at least one week prior to the start date, and earlier is best to ensure you have a spot.
We love hosting the leaders of tomorrow here now at the Yard. When you visit for this event or any number of other Naval Academy summer camps, your visit gives to the midshipmen. Every meal you eat, purchase you make or tour you take goes to the Brigade, so you’re supporting the midshipmen that support our freedoms. Come explore today and let your future midshipman see the Yard up close, the way very few people can. It’s an experience they’ll never forget.