FREDERICK — Patrick McCarron likes to cover his bases — sometimes in triplicate.
The Frederick High School senior knew that getting into one of the military’s academies would require the backing of a member of Congress.
So he sought out the support of three elected officials: Rep. Jared Polis and Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet.
McCarron, 17, secured a nomination to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and the United States Military Academy at West Point.
“I’m going to West Point,” McCarron said. “I was notified by Rep. Jared Polis’ office Dec. 17.”
And even though West Point hasn’t sent out the letters telling students they’ve received an appointment, McCarron already has a lock on his future.
“Appointments have not come out, but I got a letter saying I was qualified as long as I met the other criteria,” McCarron said.
McCarron is so sure about West Point because he received more than just a standard nomination from Rep. Polis. Each member of Congress and the Vice President can nominate a total of five cadets at West Point at any one time.
Udall nominated McCarron for the Naval and Air Force Academies, but McCarron would still have competed against other nominees, who are ranked based on high school grade point average, ACT or SAT scores, and fitness exams.
But Polis took another option, known as a “principal nomination.” With this, McCarron receives a higher recommendation from the congressman’s office, and in turn he is guaranteed a spot as long as the other criteria are above a certain threshold.
Of course, McCarron — an Eagle Scout — is prepared on this front, too.
At Frederick High, McCarron earned a 4.15 GPA and swept through his ACT exam and candidate fitness assessment.
“The reason I’m there is because of my teachers, counselors and family (are) so supportive and bent over backward for me to achieve my dreams,” McCarron said. “I wouldn’t be here without their help and support.”
Many students who seek out the military academies are from families with generations of men and women who served in the armed forces.
But aside from a cousin in the Air Force, McCarron’s motivation came from other sources.
“I was 6 years old when I saw the news footage of the Sept. 11 attacks,” McCarron said. “I knew from that point that I wanted to be in the military to help keep the country safe.”
FHS Principal Pete Vargas has a good degree of Warrior pride because McCarron is one of two students nominated for West Point. Sen. Mark Udall also nominated senior Grace Lahrs.
“We’re very excited about both of their opportunities,” Vargas said. “And it’s good knowing that Frederick High School prepared them for their next adventure at the service academies. We know ho much work our teachers and counselors did to prepare them to have that kind of option.”
Both students are residents of Firestone.
“One of my favorite opportunities is to nominate highly qualified, bright young people to attend our military service academies,” Udall said. “Throughout American history, these academies have produced some of our finest military and civilian leaders. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I take very seriously the responsibility of nominating the most highly qualified applicants. Every year I am reminded that Colorado’s human resources are every bit as impressive as our natural resources.”
And this won’t be McCarron first trip to West Point. He attended a summer leadership conference at the school during the summer of 2012.
“I fell in love,” he said. “I’ll miss Colorado, but I’m so excited for the next chapter.”
The four years of free education, room and board he’ll receive will be attached to a requirement of a minimum of five years of active duty and three years as a reservist.
He can’t answer whether this will lead to a life-long career with the military – he is still technically a minor. But he’s clear that the military reflects what he loves about his country.
“I know our country is going through tough times,” McCarron said. “But our nation gives the most opportunities to people across the world and that’s why people come to our country. Our country has given me so many opportunities and it’s the least I can do to give back.”
Contact Ben Wiebesiek at
303-659-2522, ext. 205, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.