To call Absecon resident and Pilgrim Academy rising senior Lucas Andrews driven would be an understatement.
On June 1, before many of his peers even started their summer vacations, the 17-year-old was already at the United States Military Academy in West Point for its summer seminar, the first stage of a grueling summer that's allowed him scarcely more than a week of cumulative downtime.
Such a schedule would be trying for almost anyone, but Andrews takes it in stride.
"It's really not that much worse than the school year, really," Andrews said. "For me, at least."
Andrews was at West Point for a week, after which he traveled to Annapolis, Md., to attend the United States Naval Academy's Summer Seminar. Then, the American Legion Jersey Boys State conference, followed by shooting tournaments in Ohio and Indiana and a trip from Nova Scotia to Boston aboard the Coast Guard's Barque Eagle tall ship, all of it by the end of July.
Currently, Andrews is at a U.S. Navy Sea Cadet Corps training camp in Gainesville, Fla., and, at the end of August, Andrews will go to Fort Benning for a week of shooting training before returning home to spend the rest of his summer vacation - all two days of it.
All of this Andrews has done with one goal in mind: to become an officer in the United States military through admission to West Point or Annapolis.
Admission to the military academies requires an extensive resume, as the schools are among the most competitive in the country. Annapolis, Andrews' top choice, only granted admission to about 1,500 of the more than 17,000 applicants for the 2010-11 class, the most recent for which records are available.
In addition to all his activities this summer, Andrews is active during the school year, serving on the student council and playing in the orchestra at Pilgrim Academy and volunteering and running charity drives for local nonprofits, including the Atlantic City Rescue Mission.
The military academies require all students to play a sport while in school, and Andrews chose competitive shooting. While he has only been shooting for two years, Andrews' determination has seen him quickly advance through the ranks, and this summer he and his teammate won a pair of team titles at the NRA Metric Championships in Bristol, Ind., which Andrews said was one of the highlights of a summer filled with adventure.
"My coach and my teammate were just going ballistic," Andrews said. "No pun intended."
According to Andrews' mother, Donna, his interest in the military dates back to her buying him a book on military history when he was a kid.
Andrews studied the book incessantly, memorizing every detail of every weapon and ship. He had a voracious appetite for military history, she recalls, and while many parents struggle to get their kids to museums, Donna Andrews could hardly pull hers away.
"He would just spend hours in these military museums," she said. "I'm like, 'Luke, are you done yet?' and he's like, 'I gotta study one more ship!'"
At just 17-years-old, Andrews' resume is already more a pamphlet than a sheet. He'll face stiff competition on his way to earning admission to the military academies, but he stands as good a chance as any of getting in.
The rigorous schedule Andrews has lumped on himself is not far off from what he would have on his plate should he become a military officer, and while many Andrews' age would scoff at all the work, he smiles, because it's what he was born to do.
"The (military) lifestyle is just appealing to me," Andrews said. "It fits. It's a match. It just works."
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