Though the Williamsport Area High School auditorium was nearly empty Saturday morning for their information session about the U.S. military academies, U.S. Reps. Thomas A. Marino, R-Cogan Station, and Glenn "GT" Thompson, R-Howard, didn't seem to mind as the 20 students present represent some of the best the area has to offer.
"We're talking about the cream of the cream of the crop that's sitting here today," Marino said. "We're talking about young men and women with great academic backgrounds, great ambition to serve this country; so I think the turnout is excellent for the Williamsport area."
Marino, Thompson and representatives from each of the five military academies were on hand to provide interested students with more information about the schools as well as the competitive process of gaining admission.
From left, Lt. Col. Dave Palmer; Jeff Robbins, Williamsport Area High School principal; and U.S. Reps. Thomas A. Marino, R-Cogan Station, and Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Howard, look on as Army Maj. John Belmont give interested students an overview of what the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., has to offer, during an informational session at Williamsport Area High School Saturday morning.
The five schools, U.S. Military Academy, the Naval Academy, the Air Force Academy, the Merchant Marine Academy and the Coast Guard Academy, are among the most selective in the country.
In addition to top test scores and grades, they also look at an applicant's moral character, athleticism and leadership ability. And even excelling in those areas still does not guarantee admission.
Students between the ages of 17 and 23 must secure a nomination from either their U.S. representative or senator, the vice president or the president in order to be eligible for admission.
The nomination process typically involves letters of recommendation, essays and formal interviews.
Once admitted, students embark on rigorous courses of study, particularly in science, technology, mathematics and engineering. Graduates of the academy walk away with bachelor of science degrees and prepared to serve as officers in the U.S. military, most of the schools require a five-year service commitment after graduation.
After each representative spoke, and a video presentation about the academies was shown, the representatives set up stations for interested students to speak individually with Marino, Thompson and the school's representatives.
Thompson said that while getting into the schools is a tough process, in return, students get the best education in the world and he commended them all for their desire to serve their country.
"Each one of you are patriots that are here today," he said, before comparing them to Lance Cpl. Abram Howard, a 2007 Williamsport graduate killed in action last year in Afghanistan.
"Lance Cpl. Howard represents the type individuals who made this country strong," Thompson said. "I want to thank you for having that same spirit of service."