Though far from West Michigan, the United States Military Academy at West Point has a little bit of home among its ranks.
Grandville Public Schools currently has five cadets enrolled in the 4,500-student academy. All are recent grads: Luke Ensing and Connor Fischer (2017), Marta Grivins and Bayleigh Gable (2016), and Todd Cornett (2014). And they carry on something of a tradition at Grandville High, where West Point has become a particularly bright star in the firmament of possible college and career choices.
Guidance counselor Erika Brown had four of the current cadets on her counseling caseload during their high school careers. When students come to her for college planning, West Point is often a topic of discussion with interested students, she said.
“We encourage and help students make decisions based on what would be a good fit for them,” Brown said. “Some have parents that have gone there, some are striving to reach a higher education or life goal and some see their fellow classmates going for it and they go for it too.”
Having familiar faces around West Point makes it feel a bit like home to cadets like Connor Fischer, who came to the academy in 2017.
“Todd (Cornett) and Bailey (Gable) are both upperclassmen, so I knew if I needed anything my first year they would be more than willing to help,” Fischer said. “I played football with Luke (Ensing) from third grade to senior year, so it’s really cool to see someone that I know so well around West Point.”
|A Day in the Life
The daily schedule of West Point cadet Connor Fischer:
Located on the Hudson River in New York, West Point is the oldest continuously occupied military post in America and was George Washington’s headquarters in the Revolutionary War. Cadets can major in one of more than a dozen fields, from behavioral sciences to systems engineering, in its four-year undergrad program. As officers in training, cadets have their tuition funded by the U.S. Army in return for active-service duty.
Differing from a traditional college application, West Point evaluates students in three areas: academic performance (above average GPA); leadership potential (a well-rounded background in athletics and/or extra curricular activities holding leadership positions); and physical aptitude (a required Candidate Fitness Assessment). Students are also required to apply for a nomination from a member of Congress. U.S. News & World Report ranks it 18th among national liberal arts colleges.
Connor Fischer started his application process in his junior year.
“After submitting four different applications I had to attend three different interviews,” Fischer said. “After this yearlong process, I received a nomination from Congressman Bill Huizenga and was selected by the West Point admissions office for an appointment as part of the class of 2021.”
Huizenga calls it an honor to nominate “such driven and determined leaders” from the region. Huizenga, who represents Michigan’s 2nd district, said in a press release, “Choosing to attend our nation’s service academies is one of the most admirable decisions a young person can make. West Michigan has a tradition of sending distinguished nominees to the academies, and I have confidence that these students will carry on that tradition and represent West Michigan and our nation with distinction.”
Fischer is studying mechanical engineering, though that was not the original reason he chose the academy.
“I wanted to do something different,” he said. “I knew I wanted to be an officer in the Army, and West Point offers a great environment to grow and develop as a leader. A bonus was the fact that they are a top-five undergraduate engineering program in the nation.”
He had deeply personal motivation as well. Fischer is the younger brother of Ryan Fischer, a co-captain of Grandville’s hockey team, who was accepted to West Point before he died in his sleep March 7, 2014.
Today, Fischer carries on the West Point family legacy.
The Grandville ‘G’
For him, the most beneficial experiences before West Point came from playing sports at Grandville.
“I played hockey, football, and lacrosse, which each taught me unique and different life lessons that I truly believe cannot be learned anywhere else except through team sports,” he said. “The lessons in hard work and leadership I learned while wearing the ‘G’ have far better prepared me for life at West Point and in the military better than any other experience.”
Though Fischer largely credits where he is today to his coaches and teachers, his parents are his biggest fans, he said.
“There is a not a chance I would be here if it was not for them,” Fischer said. “From reading application essays to supporting me during my time in Grandville, they helped me every step of the way. More importantly, they taught me life lessons that could not be found anywhere else.
“My goal is to branch (into) aviation and fly helicopters after graduation,” Fischer said, adding that means a minimum of eight years of service.
Driven and Hard-Working Students
The high standards of the academy are a testament to the Grandville students enrolled there, said Brown, the high school counselor.
“I was blessed to work with each one of them on their own unique life journey,” she said. “Watching them grow over their four years in high school was pretty amazing.”
The students completed their West Point applications pretty much on their own, with Brown only helping with questions when they came up, she added.
“This is a huge testament to the individuals they are. They were such driven, hard-working, responsible and dedicated high school students that represent our Grandville community to the fullest.”
The Grandville community is extremely proud of all the cadets, Brown said.
“I would say each of these students defined what it is and what it takes to be an exemplar student and student/athlete. They are great role models and leaders. They are just as wonderful on the inside and as they are on the outside.”