BETHLEHEM, Pa. (WLVT) - It's the time of year when high school seniors play the waiting game. For some students in the Lehigh Valley, the goal is getting into a military academy.
“Anticipation sometimes kills me, but I'm happy that they're going through everything, making sure they find the right person," said William Cerbone, 17, a senior at Pleasant Valley High School in Monroe County who's applied at West Point Military Academy.
According to U.S. News & World Report, here are the acceptance rates at the country's five service academies:
- United States Naval Academy: 9%
- West Point Military Academy: 10%
- United States Air Force Academy: 11%
- United States Coast Guard Academy: 13%
- United States Merchant Marine Academy: 15%
Applicants to all but the Coast Guard Academy need a nomination as part of the process. Congresswoman Susan Wild nominated 25 applicants in the 7th Congressional district, hosting them at a reception at the Fowler Center Tuesday.
"They do all kinds of things that your average high school senior isn't really thinking about their last year of high school," she said. "I'm just very proud of them. I'll always be proud of them."
Among the nominees are 19 young men and 6 young women. Some said they were inspired by family history, while others explored their curiosity.
"I've been interested in ships ever since I was a small child, so I wanted to do something...in the Navy or the Marines," said Thomas Xing, 17, a senior at Nazareth Area High School who's applied to the Merchant Marine Academy.
"All the men in my family served at some time in their life," said 17-year-old Harrison Jeter, a Whitehall High School senior who applied to four service academies. "They may not have all served at the same branch, but they all served."
"My sister went to the Military Academy, so I had plenty of time to go over and see how everything works, and over time, I liked it," Cerbone said.
"My father went to the United States Naval Academy, and being surrounded by that culture influenced me," said 18-year-old Alexandra Hand, a senior at Easton Area High School who applied to the Naval Academy.
The nominees said they hope to serve their country, even at a time when politics tensions are high.
"The military is something that no matter what your race, your ethnicity, your gender, identity, whatever you believe in, we all have to come together to fight for what we believe in, and that's our country," Jeter said.
"One thing we should all agree is that some people need help, and I just want to do anything for me to reach out there and help as many people as possible," Cerbone said.
"There are...more than 300 million people that live in this country, and I want to serve them," Hand said. "It doesn't really matter what's going on in Washington. I care about the people in my community."
"There's many divides within this country, and I think that hopefully...me and a bunch of other nominees can help break that divide and help unite the people and help make America a better country," Xing said.
"It gives me hope for the future to see that they still want to stand up, represent this country and do something good for their fellow Americans," Wild said. "It really is just incredibly inspiring."
Along with test scores and a nomination, applicants had to go through rigorous physical training -- and beat the clock.
"First, you had to do push-ups, then a little bit of rest, and then sit-ups, and a little bit of rest, pull-ups," Cerbone explained, "and you had to make sure you made every single event under time."
While several of these students haven’t heard back yet, at least one of them has. Hand said she found out she was accepted by the Naval Academy on Valentine's Day.
"It was super exciting. I got the phone call, and I immediately went to my parents, and they were very excited for me, very proud," she said. "It was one of the proudest moments of my life."
Hand said her first day at the Naval Academy is June 25, just a few weeks after graduating from high school.