News>Feature - High school students wake up to Academy experience
High school students storm the hill in the Terrazzo during the Air Force Academy's Summer Seminar June 1, 2011. The Academy Admissions office holds three seminars for approximately 1,100 juniors and seniors each year, immersing them in a three-day microcosm of Academy life. (U.S. Air Force photo/Bill Evans)
Air Force Academy Summer Seminar attendees perform push-ups shortly after their abrupt wake-up call during the seminar's first day June 7, 2011. The Academy offers the three-day seminar annually to approximately 1,100 high school juniors and seniors from around the United States, immersing them in the military, academic and physical rigors they will face should they accept an appointment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Don Branum)
Capt. Ryan Smith familiarizes two Summer Seminar attendees with the controls of a Diamond DA-40 aircraft at the Air Force Academy's airfield June 9, 2011. Summer Seminar is a three-day program that immerses high school juniors and seniors in cadet life. Captain Smith is the assistant chief of standardization and evaluation for the 557th Flying Training Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Raymond McCoy)
Cadet 2nd Class Bryant Mateus, right, motivates high school students during the first full day of Summer Seminar at the Air Force Academy June 7, 2011. The Academy offers three such seminars between graduation and inprocessing to approximately 1,100 high school juniors and seniors per year. Cadet Mateus, one of the Summer Seminar element leaders, is assigned to Cadet Squadron 17. (U.S. Air Force photo/Don Branum)
Cadet 1st Class Ryan French talks about the Air Force Academy's airmanship programs with Summer Seminar attendees at the Academy airfield June 9, 2011. Cadet French is a member of the Wings of Blue, the official Air Force parachute demonstration team, and is assigned to Cadet Squadron 17. (U.S. Air Force photo/Raymond McCoy)
6/9/2011 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- About 350 high-school students found out the morning of June 7, about a half hour before sunrise, what distinguishes the Air Force Academy from other four-year colleges.
A half-second blast from an air horn signaled cadets to spring into action at 5:10 a.m. They pounded on doors, yelling, "Wake up! Open this door right now! Hurry up!" Young men and women dressed in gray shorts and blue T-shirts shuffled -- some more quickly than others -- into the tight hallways of Vandenberg Hall. Cadets led them through push-ups and four-count leg lifts and had them recite the phonetic alphabet or sing the Air Force Song.
Cadets 2nd Class Bryant Mateus from Cadet Squadron 17 and Allison Swaney from CS 19 were among the element leaders giving attendees a small taste of life as a freshman, or Doolie, during Basic Cadet Training.
"Get louder! You're not loud enough!" Cadet Mateus shouted. "Why was my element last week a lot louder than you are?"
"If you can't sing the Air Force Song with pride, then don't sing it at all. That's an insult to the Air Force Song," Cadet Swaney said as she told her element to start over.
That wake-up call is exactly what 17-year-old Dallas native Jared Johnson said he was looking forward to.
"I want to see if I can stand it," he said the afternoon of June 6, shortly after arriving here for the three-day seminar.
The Summer Seminar seeks to immerse high school juniors and seniors in cadet life to help them decide whether they want to apply for the Academy, said Lt. Col. Lee Taylor, the Academy Admissions office's regional director for much of the southwestern United States.
While the "Doolie for a Day" segment may be most memorable for attendees, it's only one facet of the overall program.
"This is our premier recruiting program," Colonel Taylor said. "We have the students live a representative sample (of Academy life) for three days so they can make an informed decision about whether they want to be here. Our goal is to motivate them to complete the process and get an appointment."
The Dean of Faculty staff worked with Admissions to create an academic information fair, a new addition to this year's seminar. The event gives students information on the Academy's core curriculum and helps them see where academics fit into the scope of cadets' professional military education.
"The students get about 90 minutes to mingle with faculty representatives from our 20 departments," said Maj. Conrad Preedom, an instructor with the Department of Management and the Dean of Faculty's project officer for this year's seminar. "The students can ask or discuss anything, but they generally want to know about how their expertise and goals align with the Academy curriculum."
More than 50 instructors offer workshops that illustrate building and flying gliders, setting up a forward base, discussing ethics and philosophy and more, Major Preedom said.
In addition, a series of "way forward" briefings informs students on how to navigate the application process and what they can expect from military life after the Academy, Colonel Taylor explained. Cadet element leaders hold question-and-answer sessions with the attendees each evening to answer miscellaneous questions about cadet life.
Those aren't the only recent changes to the Summer Seminar program. In 2009, the seminar schedule was compressed from five days to three so that the Admissions office could set up a third session, Colonel Taylor said. Based on student feedback from previous years' sessions, presenters hold their sessions in the morning and early afternoon, with physical activities scheduled toward the late afternoon and evening.
Other Summer Seminar highlights this year include an element-based scavenger hunt called the "This Amazing Place" race, modeled after the TV show, "The Amazing Race," and practice sessions for the candidate fitness assessment, which includes a one-handed basketball throw, pull-ups, push-ups, crunches and a one-mile run.
Roughly 40 percent of students lean toward applying to attend the Air Force Academy even before they arrive, Colonel Taylor said. Another 20 percent are considering either the Air Force Academy or one of the other military service academies. More than 90 percent of those who attend leave more motivated to complete the application process.
Students' families pay $350 for the experience, which includes lodging, meals, travel to and from the Colorado Springs Airport, Air Force Academy clothing and backpacks and three 17-hour days of physical and academic activity. The price does not include transportation costs to or from Colorado Springs. Colonel Taylor said the Admissions office can waive the cost of attending Summer Seminar on a case-by-case basis.
6/24/2011 10:45:03 AM ET My son enjoyed this program last year. He is now at the Academy He starts BCT today. He is soooo happy.
A. Will, Houston
6/20/2011 6:21:10 PM ET Both my son and daughter have attended the summer seminar my daughter choosing to attend a private university and my son now having 2 days left for in processing class of 2015. I am proud for both of them and their choices.
Frank Chaves, Las Vegas Nevada
6/18/2011 11:31:23 AM ET Great program. I had no idea it existed. Friends have a daughter just finishing her first year at the Coast Guard Academy. They have and she attended a similar program. Why have people apply be accepted and quit the first day not having understood the real deal.
Rod Rodman 1965, Orlando FL
6/17/2011 1:14:40 PM ET We are so proud of our student Matthew Cox who is in this session Matthew is from Haven of Peace Academy in Dar es SalaamTanzania