By Auburn Terry
Recently, upcoming Opelika High School senior Winston Smith T traveled to the United States Military Academy at West Point for a leadership conference and model of life at West Point as a perspective student.
The camp was for 500 upcoming high school seniors from around the country to simulate what the life of a student and trainee would be like on a daily basis. Smith T said he and the other students began each day by waking up at 5 a.m. for physical training, followed by breakfast and three hours of classes before lunch and three hours after as well.
“The camp started immediately. Once we arrived, we were yelled at and ordered around, just like Cadet Reception Day when the freshmen arrive in the summer,” Smith T said.
The camp lasted a week, Saturday to Saturday. For most of the students, the camp was all about picturing a life on the campus to see if West Point would be a good fit for them after high school.
“I was interested in learning more about the academy and finding out whether it is a place I could see myself spending four years of my life,” Smith T said.
Though Smith T said the days were packed down to the minute, at night the students held dodgeball tournaments to unwind.
The students experienced life as real recruits, from doing push-ups in the rain to eating the same instant meals soldiers would eat in the field. The students also had to memorize, recite and perform basic training skills that had to do with the military, such as rankings, gun ranges and the menial tasks to fully grasp the cadet lifestyle.
“The camp taught me how time management plays a huge role in surviving at West Point,” Smith T said.
The main event for the camp happened Thursday, when the attendees focused primarily on the military side of the camp. The attendees went through military drills and learned how the military portion of the academy functioned. On that day, the students hiked mountains and climbed jungle gyms as well. Here, Smith T said, was when he had his first experience with the instant meals, which he said were quite less than gourmet meals. He said he did, however, sneak in a Reese’s Cup for dessert.
“I really enjoyed my time, even though it was difficult. I feel like challenging yourself in that type of environment betters you as a person,” Smith T said.