When asked what they did over their summer vacations, Sunlake High School students Matthew Andresen and Jonathan Quiros could offer some unusual answers. Between them, these two students flew an airplane, earned a special commendation from a brigadier general and participated in flight and battle simulations.
Andresen, a 16-year-old Sunlake junior, won a Florida Aerospace Career Academy Summer Camp Scholarship to attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's Summer Academy in Daytona Beach. Quiros, a 17-year-old senior, attended West Point and U.S. Naval Academy summer leadership seminars.
Both had to fill out extensive applications, meet GPA and ACT score requirements, and write essays stating why they wanted to attend the seminars.
For Quiros, a Civil Air Patrol cadet who has a 4.1 GPA, the answer was simple.
"I wanted to be selfless in the service to my country," he said.
Interested in military service since early childhood, Quiros saw his participation in the seminars as "a way to continue with my goals and aspirations."
Of more than 5,000 applicants across the country, Quiros was one of 1,000 selected to attend the West Point seminar, where he participated in academic, leadership, athletic and military workshops (including battle simulations), underwent a daily regimen of physical training, and learned about residential living and admissions standards at West Point. While learning all about computer technology and cyberspace protection in one workshop, he was awarded a special commendation from Brigadier Gen. Timothy Trainor.
Quiros, who plans a career in the military, was also among 2,550 students to attend this year's U.S. Naval Academy Summer Seminar, where he participated in academic, leadership and athletic programs and learned about life in the Navy.
"Through both of these seminars I learned more about what is required of me, physically, mentally and morally, to be a part of the military," he said.
Andresen learned his own lessons at the Embry-Riddle's summer workshop. For one thing, he got to fly a single-engine plane under the supervision of a pilot.
"So I wasn't used to flying a plane at 3,000 feet. It was a little scary at first," he said with a chuckle. "Then I remembered that I was with a trained pilot. I knew it was okay."
Andresen's dreams of flight began in early childhood, when he played with RC cars, studied the development of Embry-Riddle vehicles and dreamed of the day he would be able to fly a plane.
"I've always liked anything to do with electronics," said Andresen, who holds a 4.333 GPA and is a volunteer at Grace Family Church soup kitchen. "And in my Embry admissions essay, I talked about the beautiful mechanics of a plane."
Aside from flying, Andresen designed a PowerPoint presentation for his own model plane and engaged in flight simulation activities at Embry-Riddle, as well as learned about the mechanics and inner workings of planes. This is knowledge he'll be able to put to good use this school year, as he continues his studies at Sunlake High's Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Academy. He already has received a college scholarship from Embry-Riddle, and plans to pursue a career in either medicine or aerospace engineering.
"Here at Sunlake we have career academies that are related to what these kids want to do in life. We want them to learn skills they can take to the outside world," said Sunlake principal Steven Williams. "These two exceptional students are connecting at a high level with their fields of interest. They're not only good examples — they're role models."