With a 12% acceptance rate, getting accepted into West Point, the United States Military Academy, is no small feat. Cedar Shoals senior Zachary VanHessen will attend West Point in the fall.
VanHessen credits the Cedar Shoals JROTC program for supporting him along the way.
“I wouldn’t be who I am without it. Making those friends and connections with classmates in JROTC really helped me out because I was able to build friendships and bonds with people who are upperclassmen.” VanHessen said.
In his time in the JROTC program at Cedar, VanHessen held many leadership positions in the program, including Company Commander, where he oversaw class periods and led physical training (PT) workouts. He was also an assistant on the battalion staff where he helped plan events and a sabre guard commander, holding the swords at the military ball and graduation. He also participated in both Raiders and the drill team.
VanHessen says his JROTC instructors his junior year gave him the motivation he needed to apply for and get accepted into West Point.
“This was something that I kind of had in the back of my head since I was an eighth grader at Hilsman. It was something that I thought I would apply for but never get accepted. I mentioned that kind of offhandedly to one of my JROTC instructors and he said well I’m gonna hold your feet to the fire, and make sure that you get it done,” VanHessen said.
VanHessen has learned valuable lessons and skills during his time in JROTC. He has learned about citizenship, military bearing, and how to function as a member of the Army.
“I’ve improved in my leadership abilities.” VanHessen said.
ROTC instructor SFC George Crimmins praises VanHessen’s leadership skills.
“When we need volunteers and people to step up, he’s always one of the first ones to do so. He’s the senior in his second block and his leadership is carried over to the freshmen that we have just now seen for the first time this year, so he’s making a good impact,” Crimmins said.
The application process was long and tedious. It was different from the normal college application, it started when VanHessen was a junior. He filled out psychological and self evaluations, created a resume, completed a physical training test, and got school official evaluations from his teachers.
While he still has a few years before he has to make a decision, Vanhessen has a few careers in mind that interest him. He’s thinking about kinesiology, teaching and becoming a lawyer.
“Something that I’m really passionate about and also have considered is being a teacher. I love working with the youth,” VanHessen said.
Crimmins believes that going to West Point will be an excellent experience for Vanhessen.
“I think he will be better rounded because they could mold him and groom him, and the leadership that he already has, they’re gonna make it fine for him. I think that’s gonna be good for Zach,” Crimmins said. “I think he will be the type of individual that will make an impact wherever he’s at. He’s even made me better.”
For students who want to attend competitive universities, VanHessen says they should emulate something he tried: seeking help and advice.
“One thing I’ve realized over the whole process of applying to the school is that I know I’m not perfect, and that I don’t know a whole lot of things. There was a period in my life where I felt that I knew everything and didn’t need anybody’s help. That’s far from the truth, the whole time I was doing this I was reaching out for help and I was asking for people’s advice,” VanHessen said.