Monday, March 7, 2011

Around Town: 'What? You want to go WHERE?' - LA Canada

Attention, high-school juniors: The United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., is now accepting applications for its annual Summer Seminar.

Summer Seminar is an action-packed six-day program that exposes high-school students to life at the Naval Academy.

I had never heard of Summer Seminar until the spring of 2001. One day an envelope arrived, addressed to our son. Being a La Cañada mom, I was curious. When Andrew came home, he opened the envelope and showed it to me.

The letter was from the Department of the Navy. The letter said:

“Congratulations. You have been accepted to Engineering Summer Seminar at the United States Naval Academy.”

“WHAT?” I exclaimed.

“I sent in an application,” he replied.

I was stunned. Thoughts swirled through my brain. Andrew was going to go to college, not into the service. Hadn’t I given him violin lessons? Piano lessons? And the Gollatz cotillion at the Thursday Club? Wasn’t football just a passing phase? Plus, no son of mine….

“Don’t worry, Mom,” he said. “I don’t want to go to the Naval Academy.”

“That’s a relief,” I whispered.

“I want to go to West Point.”


Suddenly, I remembered. In third grade, Andrew and his friend Todd Bryant plotted their escape to West Point.

But the years had passed. Unwittingly, I believed that Andrew had outgrown those childish desires.

So what if his proposed seventh-grade science project (rejected by the science teacher) concerned the comparative effectiveness of bullet-proof vest materials. (“I wrote to the manufacturer for some Kevlar samples….”)

So what if Andrew pestered the uncle who fought at Iwo Jima. (“And, then what happened, Uncle Tony?”)

So what if his coach laughed when I worried that football was dangerous for a 5-foot, 6-inch-tall player. (Coach Fry: “Andrew is less likely to get hurt than to hurt their defense.”)

I had been living in a dream world.

That spring we were invited to several West Point events, which I did not particularly enjoy. But when school let out in late May, Andrew took off for Naval Academy Summer Seminar.

“Don’t worry, Mom.” he said. “I’m applying to West Point.”

By the time he returned, Andrew had decided to apply to Annapolis.

“I’m not applying to other schools,” he said. “If I don’t get in, I’ll enlist in the Marine Corps.”

Life around our house was, well, interesting.

It wasn’t just the constant physical activity at Summer Seminar that convinced Andrew. It was the academics. One of the “academic” classes was taught by a Marine captain. The course title: “An Analysis of Homer’s War Poems.”

Andrew, the bookworm, could not stop talking about that class.

Later, I learned that a typical day at Summer Seminar consists of the following:

0545-0630 Physical Training — Introduction to PEP (Physical training)

0700-0720 Breakfast

0730-1215 Morning Academic Workshops

1225-1300 Lunch

1345-1600 Afternoon Academic Workshops

1600-1800 Sporting Events or military-drill introduction

1830-1900 Evening Meal

2000-2245 Special Events, including the U.S. Marine Corps Sunset Parade at the Iwo Jima Memorial in Washington, D.C., career-opportunity presentations by Navy and Marine Corps officers, Sea Trials, and the most popular — a mock plebe indoctrination session.

2300 Taps

Each year, only 750 students are accepted into Summer Seminar. There are three sessions, beginning in early June.

Applications to Summer Seminar must be submitted by April 1. Applications may be submitted online at

Good luck and happy sailing!

ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. E-mail her at
Around Town: 'What? You want to go WHERE?' - LA Canada

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