The U.S. Naval Academy accepts fewer than 8% of applicants. But that didn’t deter Eric Towe, a senior graduating from Dayton Regional STEM School. Starting this summer, he’ll begin his service academy training in an undergraduate program that’s graduated more than 50 U.S. astronauts, the most of any institution.
This appointment to a service academy was a big first for the school, it may even be a first for the Ohio STEM Learning Network! We’re recognizing Eric’s achievement and the education that got him there with a pair of interviews. Here’s our chat with Eric and Dayton Regional STEM School Principal Hope Strickland.
Eric, tell us a little about yourself.
A: I was born in Corpus Christi, Texas, and moved to Vandalia at the age of 2. I have two loving parents and three sisters.
Q: Why apply to the Naval Academy?
A: I feel a calling to serve in the U.S. military. I had my heart set on the Navy. Given the low acceptance rate of my dream school, I sent many applications to other schools. I was accepted to 15 other institutions.
Q: Was the Naval Academy application process rigorous?
A: The application for the Naval Academy may be the most challenging and detailed process that I have ever done. I began the process over winter break of 2014. (The process included) a preliminary application, an online application, a Candidate Fitness Assessment, recommendations, transcripts and test scores. A nomination from a member of Congress is required, and I was offered a nomination from Rep. Mike Turner on Dec. 8, 2015. The final step was waiting for medical qualification from the Department of Defense. I was originally determined to be medically disqualified but successfully pursued a medical waiver. On Dec. 23, 2015, I was offered an appointment to the academy. My high school was very helpful with sending necessary documents on time, but I navigated the process with the help of my parents and other academy alumni.
Q: How did the Dayton Regional STEM School prepare you?
A: Every midshipman at the Naval Academy is required to graduate with a Bachelor of Science. Courses like calculus, chemistry and physics must be taken. STEM has been helpful by providing these courses so I am academically prepared for life at the academy.
Q: What will you study there?
A: I intend to take advantage of a new major called Cyber Operations, where I will learn more about computer science, cyber security and staying safe in cyberspace.
Q: How does your family feel about your appointment?
A: They are proud and very excited for me.
Q: As an academy graduate, you will serve your country. How does that prospect make you feel?
A: I love learning, competing in the sport of rowing and challenging myself mentally and physically, but the main focus is my service to my country. When I graduate, the Navy is going to use me for whatever task they determine best hones my skills, talents and intelligence for their needs. Some people might stress over this prospect, but it gives me peace. I get to use this time to fully focus on bettering myself and my fellow future officers in every way possible.
Q: What advice would you give other high school students who might be considering applying for a service academy appointment?
A: Submit everything as soon as you can. Don’t let the small chance of acceptance scare you. Prove to everyone that you encounter during the process that you want it more than anything else in life and your focus is truly on service to your country, and it will be very hard for anyone to say no to you. Get in the best physical shape possible; strive for excellence in the classroom and in after-school activities. Take on leadership responsibilities whenever possible. Your school’s faculty and administration can help by learning about the special service academy application process.
Q: As principal, what does Eric’s accomplishment mean for your school?
A: It means that our students are experiencing a first-rate education that prepares them for the next phase of their future.
Q: What factors in the school’s curriculum and philosophy helped Eric to achieve his goal?
A: The school’s focus on project-based learning and public presentations might have helped Eric. As a Dayton Regional STEM School student, he has been required to solve complex problems and answer difficult questions, which helped him learn how to prioritize goals and develop actions plans. He has also gained experience working with professionals from many different fields and is comfortable presenting his work to them and receiving their feedback. These skills and experiences are fundamental to the application process that Eric completed so successfully.
Q: What qualities have you seen in Eric that would make him a good fit for the Naval Academy? How has he grown and developed during his time at Dayton Regional STEM School?
A: Eric is a very intelligent young man who is able to work successfully with people from different backgrounds and perspectives. He is driven and persistent in the pursuit of his goals but also works to contribute to his school and neighborhood community. He has grown in his ability to understand how his individual accomplishments can be a part of a larger purpose that affects the lives of others.
Want to congratulate Eric? Here’s a Facebook post from the school recognizing his achievement.