For me, the Academy represents one of the happiest times in my life. It’s the one place I felt fully accepted, fully engaged in learning, and fully secure in my surroundings. That’s a pretty rare feeling for some of us geeks. I made a number of life-long friends, and I honestly feel that I learned more in my short time at the Academy than in the rest of my life combined. Whether academics, social interaction, communication, writing skills, or anything else, I believe that the Academy helped set me up for my future in ways that no other school could.
I went to a private religious school for kindergarten through eighth grade. I was never bullied or made fun of – not everyone is so lucky. Kids can be cruel. Academy kids, however, are a cut above the rest. I never found it particularly difficult to socialize with other kids in my middle school, but on my first day walking in to the Academy, I knew I had found a home. Most of the people in my life just did not understand my need to rip apart every electronic I got my hands on for no other reason than to see what was inside, nor my desire to learn everything there is to know about computers. At the Academy, both behaviors are commonplace. I have fond memories of friends bringing in fried family laptops and placing them on our lunch table with a screw driver, and knowing that by the time lunch was over, they’d have a working computer again.
After applying and testing, I was thrilled to receive my first piece of mail from the Academy – my acceptance letter. I still have it today. I soon received a second piece of mail, however – our summer work. The thought had honestly never crossed my mind that a school could do such a thing, and these weren’t just simple assignments to keep us busy. Those projects really made me work. I didn’t know it at the time, but I wouldn’t stop working that hard until the day I graduated.
There are a few things you need to do well at the Academy. The school isn’t for everyone. You need a strong passion for learning, and for math, science, and engineering in particular. That passion has to outweigh the difficult times, and there most definitely will be difficult times. You need the kind of resolution to be able to roll with the punches of exams, projects, and homework piling up simultaneously. The Academy helped me become who I am today, and will continue to help me in my growth through its lessons long after I’ve left its walls. I know how to deal with stress and manage workloads that were far higher than what I had in college. But most importantly, you need to know how to have fun in the midst of all the work. The memories from the big happy family I had the sincere privilege to join will be with me all of my life. Other than perhaps paying a little more attention in certain classes, I wouldn’t change a thing about my Academy experience.