Cadet candidates receive insight on academy during SLE
US Army | Jun. 15, 2022
High schoolers donned their war paint as they readied themselves for one insightful week of the West Point experience. Eager and ambitious, the young hopefuls explored what it meant to be a cadet while performing military and academic duties during the annual West Point Summer Leaders Experience between May 28-June 10 at the U.S. Military Academy.
“Working with the candidates is very inspiring. These candidates are at a point in their lives where they are making decisions that will alter the trajectory of their whole life,ˮ Lt. Col. Thomas Tolman, associate director for Admissions, said. “They are making decisions to serve their country. They are inspired by something bigger than themselves and their determination and their sincerity motivate me.ˮ
The West Point SLE provided rising high school seniors with two, weeklong immersions into the academic, military and social life of a cadet. SLE launched the U.S. Military Academyʼs Class of 2027 admissions cycle. More than 5,260 candidates applied for SLE with about 1,200 candidates attending during two iterations, 600 per iteration.
During SLE, cadet candidates received a one-on-one interview and discussion time with a current West Point cadet, an introduction to the academic curriculum, optional group discussion with West Point athletic coaches, a small group and individual counseling sessions with the West Point Admissions team, West Point training equipment and merchandise and much more.
A former candidate of the SLE program, Class of 2023 Cadet Elizabeth Pepper, grew up in central and western Africa. During her upbringing, she developed a keen interest in projects related to infrastructure and stability, which would later transform into a passion she had to pursue as a career in those areas.
She attended the American School of Kinshasa, an international private school in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Her journey would then take her to West Springfield High school in Westfield, Virginia, where she would complete her remaining two years of high school.
During those years, Pepper attended the SLE program in 2018, and if one were to ask Pepper the reason why she had chosen West Point, sheʼd tell you, “the Civil and Mechanical Engineering workshop is honestly the thing that made me choose the academy,ˮ Pepper said. “So thatʼs part of why I was really happy to get chosen to do SLE.ˮ
Throughout this yearʼs SLE, Pepper served as the cadet commander, coordinating the event with a team of cadets ready to provide the most immersive experience a candidate can receive.
“I think the most important thing Iʼm learning is how to grasp and understand that all these cadet candidates are coming from very different backgrounds,ˮ Pepper said. “We want to make sure that each of them gets the right exposure and so I think itʼs crucial that we know how to showcase parts of West Point that are going to help them decide if they want to come here or not.ˮ
Gregory Butler, a cadet candidate from Indian Creek High School, always had an interest in the military growing up in Annapolis, Maryland. It began with the U.S. Naval Academy, but then Butler realized, “Iʼm not much of a water person.ˮ
Soon, Butler realized the Army seemed a better fit.
“The Army has more of what I want, so I learned more about West Point and what it stood for,ˮ Butler said. “I instantly fell in love with the culture and I feel I was always meant to be here.ˮ
Butler added that his family is absolutely thrilled that heʼs taking this step and that if he is admitted to West Point, this would mark the second member of his family to join a service academy.
“Iʼm extremely proud to represent my family through this program and become one step closer to becoming a West Point cadet,ˮ Butler said. “Iʼm also proud because I have a cousin at the Naval Academy who plays football, but itʼs going to be sad having to call this year and tell him, ‘It’s hard to see you lose,’ but it is what it is.ˮ