Many young men and women dream of achieving an appointment from one of the service agencies.
Let’s just say that Adrian Coleman has surpassed his most hopeful dreams. The South Aiken High School senior and honor student has been accepted to West Point, the Air Force Academy and the Merchant Marine Academy.
Just for good measure, Coleman has been accepted into the Naval Academy’s prep school and is on the academy’s waiting list. He also has been offered a full scholarship to The Citadel.
His military interest comes naturally. For the last four years, Coleman has served as a cadet and officer with South Aiken’s Naval Junior ROTC unit.
Coleman and his mother, Jennifer Burkett, are grateful for the support of S.C. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. Duncan nominated him for all four academies, and Graham did so for the Merchant Marines.
“I was hoping to hear from one of the academies,” Coleman said, “and I didn’t know which, or if any. It’s a big decision, but as Mr. (Principal Bryan) Skipper said, ‘It’s a good problem to have.’”
A health physicist at Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, Burkett is a single mom who tried to introduce her son to as many activities she could over the years, such as the Civil Air Patrol.
“It’s been a lot of work,” she said cheerfully, “but I wanted to get him exposed to everything, so he could figure out what he wanted. But I really didn’t expect any of this.”
Mother and son left Saturday for New York and spent yesterday and today at West Point. Then they’ll head to Kings Point, N.Y., to visit the Merchant Marine Academy. He had already been to the Naval Academy, including an arduous summer session there last year that Coleman thoroughly enjoyed.
It’s not easy to get an appointment to a service academy, said South Aiken NJROTC Commander Larry Laughlin. This unusual achievement is truly something Adrian can be proud of, he said.
“The academies look for what they call the whole person,” Laughlin said. “He’s not only a good student academically, but he’s someone who is involved in sports and extracurricular activities. Adrian shows leadership ability and much potential. He has touched all those bases.”
Coleman said others have been a big influence – guidance counselor Tracie McBride, teachers Dorna Redd, Valorie Vance and Ann Poplin and career counselor Steve Lavelli.
“The talent at South Aiken is overwhelming this year,” McBride said. “Adrian still stands out among all of that. He’s also one of the nicest people you will ever meet. He’s authentic and humble, and I can’t wait to see where he is 10 years from now.”
His mother has always cracked down on him, Coleman said, laughing – doing his chores and no television or video games on homework nights.
“But I could deal with it,” he said. “NJROTC has been a tremendous experience, going to national competitions and attending summer games. We went to the Naval Academy, and that was an eye-opening opportunity the first time.”