Grads headed to Ivies, ser­vice acad­e­mies

Goal is achiev­able, students say

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By JES­SICA IANNETTA

jian­netta@ce­cil­whig.com

— For some Ce­cil County Pub­lic Schools students, get­ting ac­cepted to Ivy League uni­ver­si­ties or mil­i­tary acad­e­mies can seem like a goal so unattain­able it’s not even worth pur­su­ing.

But three high school se­niors who did just that want younger students to know that with hard work, that goal is not only within reach,

CE­CIL COUNTY

it’s very achiev­able.

This year, two North East High School se­niors, Abra­ham Lee and Ibukun Ope, were ac­cepted to a to­tal of three Ivy League schools while Ris­ing Sun High School se­nior Me­gan Keene re­ceived three mil­i­tary academy ac­cep­tances. And the three hope that next year, more students will fol­low in their foot­steps.

“I think it’s im­por­tant to try to not be per­fect, ac­tu­ally. To just be your­self,” said Ope, who was ac­cepted to Prince­ton Univer­sity and the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia, but will at­tend Univer­sity of Mary­land Col­lege Park on a full schol­ar­ship in­stead. “If you want to go for an Ivy League, def­i­nitely do it, be­cause you never know. I didn’t think I’d get in.”

As the they pre­pare to turn their tas­sels this week and move on to the next chap­ter of their lives, the three soonto-be grad­u­ates shared their ex­pe­ri­ence pre­par­ing for life af­ter high school.

Me­gan Keene In many ways, Keene is an un­likely candidate to pur­sue the Coast Guard Academy.

She has only lim­ited ex­pe­ri­ence on boats and she’ll be the first per­son in her fam­ily to serve in the mil­i­tary. But af­ter par­tic­i­pat­ing in a Coast Guard sum­mer pro­gram last year, Keene, who was also ac­cepted to the U.S. Mer­chant Marine and U.S. Air Force acad­e­mies, knew the Coast Guard was her first choice.

Al­though she has a lot of re­spect for the other mil­i­tary branches, Keene said she re­ally iden­ti­fied with the Coast Guard’s mis­sion of help­ing peo­ple.

“That’s their mis­sion. All you’re do­ing is help­ing or keep­ing our coun­try safe in a way that isn’t hurt­ing peo­ple, it’s just pre­vent­ing bad things from hap­pen­ing,” she said.

Al­though the Coast Guard was al­ways her first choice, Keene said she was happy she ap­plied to three dif­fer­ent acad­e­mies, even if it made the ap­pli­ca­tion process longer. For the Mer­chant Marines and Air Force, she needed to get con­gres­sional rec­om­men­da­tions, which was like “an en­tire other col- lege ap­pli­ca­tion,” she said. But send­ing in three ap­pli­ca­tions in­creased the chance that her goal of at­tend­ing a mil­i­tary academy a real­ity, Keene added.

And it won’t take long for that dream to be­come a real­ity — Keene re­ports for duty at the academy on June 27. While at the academy, she plans to ma­jor in naval ar­chi­tec­ture and marine en­gi­neer­ing and her dream is to some­day be sta­tioned and even­tu­ally live in Hawaii.

But re­gard­less of how the fu­ture plans out, Keene said she knows that pur­su­ing ac­cep­tance to a mil­i­tary academy was the best de­ci­sion for her and she thinks it could be a good path for many other CCPS students too.

“I feel like so many peo­ple are un­e­d­u­cated about what they ac­tu­ally are and what they do, but they have so many op­por­tu­ni­ties and I wish that more peo­ple would re­search them and see all that they have to offer,” she said. “I know a lot of peo­ple who’d be a good fit for it, but they just don’t know what they are so they don’t ap­ply.”

Abra­ham Lee Lee was sure the Har­vard Univer­sity ac­cep­tance let­ter was a joke.

“They no­ti­fied me the day be­fore April Fool’s Day, so I re­ally thought it was a joke,” said Lee, who re­ceived a full schol­ar­ship. “So I was hon­estly wait­ing for a let­ter telling me I ac­tu­ally didn’t get in. I was re­ally sur­prised be­cause I kind of just ap­plied to Har­vard on a whim.”

But Lee, who was also ac­cepted to New York Univer­sity, Van­der­bilt Univer­sity, Bos­ton Col­lege, Univer­sity of Mary­land, Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia San Diego and Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Davis, said Har­vard fit ev­ery­thing he was look­ing for in a col­lege. Lee said he wanted to go out of state to a school with a good aca­demic rep­u­ta­tion and he wanted a school in an area where there’s lots of dif­fer­ent things to do.

When ap­ply­ing for col­lege, Lee, who plans to ma­jor in com­puter science and also take pre-med classes, said he thinks be­ing well-rounded is im­por­tant when ap­ply­ing for col­lege. In high school, he par­tic­i­pated in soc­cer, ten­nis and track and field, took Ad­vanced Place­ment cour­ses, was pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Honor So­ci­ety, and was also in STEM Academy.

For students who may be thinking about ap­ply­ing to Ivy League schools, Lee said they shouldn’t be dis­cour­aged by the po­ten­tial cost or by their per­cep­tion of what it takes to get into an Ivy League school.

“You don’t have to be the per­fect stu­dent that they de­pict in movies to ap­ply to Ivy Leagues and you don’t have to have a 2400 (SAT score) ei­ther,” Lee said. “You can ap­ply with what­ever score you have as long as you’re con­fi­dent. It re­ally doesn’t mat­ter what your rank is or what your GPA is.”

Lee also en­cour­aged younger students to work hard start­ing their fresh­man year of high school and not wait un­til they’re older to fo­cus on school.

“Don’t say, ‘If I had tried, I would have got­ten bet­ter grades,’” he said. “Ac­tu­ally try.”

Ibukun Ope Even be­fore she started ap­ply­ing to col­leges, Ope had a feel­ing she would end up at the Univer­sity of Mary­land Col­lege Park. Her older sis­ter al­ready goes there and, on her vis­its to cam­pus, the school just felt like a good fit.

“I love the en­vi­ron­ment there,” she said. “I’ve been there be­fore for other things and it al­ready feels like my col­lege.”

Al­though she did end up choos­ing UMD, Ope didn’t lack for choice when it came time to make her col­lege de­ci­sion. Ope was also ac­cepted to Prince­ton, Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia, Johns Hop­kins and Univer­sity of Mary­land, Bal­ti­more County. The two Ivy League ac­cep­tances came as a par­tic­u­lar sur­prise to Ope and, like Lee, at first thought it was some kind of mis­take.

“I couldn’t be­lieve it,” she said.

But while she had choices, UMD had ev­ery­thing she was look­ing for in a school and the full schol­ar­ship she got means she won’t have stu­dent loans, an im­por­tant fac­tor in her de­ci­sion. Out­side of the financials, Ope said she wanted a big col­lege that was rel­a­tively close to home and was in a “lively area.”

At UMD, Ope plans to ma­jor in psy­chol­ogy and neuro- science and even­tu­ally go to med­i­cal school and be­come a psy­chi­a­trist. To pre­pare for that ca­reer path, she took many AP science classes and par­tic­i­pated in STEM Academy but also was in­volved in other ways such as par­tic­i­pat­ing in the­ater, march­ing band and Des­ti­na­tion Imag­i­na­tion and serv­ing as vice pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Honor So­ci­ety.

But while Ope was able to par­tic­i­pate in many dif­fer­ent ac­tiv­i­ties dur­ing high school, she’s also look­ing forward to start­ing col­lege and all the new op­por­tu­ni­ties that will bring.

“I’m very ex­cited. It’s been a very long year and I’m ex­cited for it to be over,” she said. “I feel like it be­comes mo­not­o­nous. Ev­ery sin­gle day is the same thing and I’m so ready for change.”

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JES­SICA IANNETTA

Abra­ham Lee and Ibukun Ope, both North East High School se­niors, were ac­cepted to Ivy League schools. Next year, Lee will at­tend Har­vard Univer­sity and Ope will at­tend the Univer­sity of Mary­land Col­lege Park.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JES­SICA IANNETTA

Ris­ing Sun High School se­nior Me­gan Keene was ac­cepted to three mil­i­tary ser­vice acad­e­mies and will head to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy later this month.

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