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From One Academy to the Next

Over the last five decades, Mercersburg has been one of a handful of prep schools across the nation to partner with the United States Naval Academy in a program that allows students enrolling at the Naval Academy to spend a year at Mercersburg as postgraduate students before heading to Annapolis. Many (though not all) are athletes on their way to competing at the varsity level for the Navy Midshipmen, but all students taking part in the program who successfully complete four years at the Naval Academy will serve their country as naval officers following graduation.

Along the way, each year’s group gives Mercersburg’s senior class an infusion of leadership, well-rounded citizenship, additional maturity, and academic and athletic prowess. The U.S. Naval Academy Foundation sponsors the program. (In recent years, a more limited number of students bound for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point have enrolled at Mercersburg under similar auspices.) Mercersburg’s graduating Class of 2022 includes 11 students who are headed to Annapolis, West Point, or the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

Since the partnership was established in the mid-1970s, a total of 189 USNA Foundation students have graduated from Mercersburg before moving on to the Naval Academy. Mercersburg’s campus (about 115 miles northwest of Annapolis) is the closest to Annapolis of any of the 16 Foundation-affiliated prep schools, which includes some of Mercersburg’s traditional rivals in Blair, Hill, Kiski, and Peddie, along with schools as far away as New Mexico and California.

“I can’t think of a school that wouldn’t want to have kids like this, who are leaders and will be representing our country, as part of its student body,” says Amy Mohr P ’26, who has worked in Mercersburg’s Admission Office for more than 20 years. “They’re wonderful additions to our school.”

Students in the program come to Mercersburg from all across the country (including—this past year—as far away as Hawaii). Those selected still must receive an official appointment from the Naval Academy to be accepted, but it is extremely rare for a Foundation student who completes all their requirements not to earn acceptance to Annapolis. 

Fleet White ’08 attended Mercersburg for a year as part of the Foundation program. “Mercersburg was a major turning point in my life, and I am so thankful to the school for preparing me for the Naval Academy and my future naval service,” said White, who later graduated from Annapolis with a double major in history and economics. “Because I was there for only one year, I tried to take advantage of everything the school has to offer, while also focusing on my studies. I made lifelong friends and learned so many lessons from the faculty and staff. I made deeper connections in my one year at Mercersburg than I had in four years at my previous high school.”

White lists Irving-Marshall Week (he declaimed for the Irving Society) and participating in cross country and indoor and outdoor track & field as Mercersburg highlights. He went on to compete at Navy in track & field for four years, and later served as a submarine officer on the USS Olympia and as a Navy Senate Liasion stationed on Capitol Hill. White graduated from the University of Chicago Law School in June 2022 and is starting this fall as an associate with the Washington, D.C.-based firm of Covington & Burling LLP.

Traditionally, a number of swimmers and baseball players have come through the Mercersburg-to-Annapolis pipeline, but in recent years the group has included golfers, divers, track & field athletes, and basketball and soccer players, among others—along with students who aren’t planning to play a varsity sport at the college level.

“It really is a win-win situation for us, since the kids we send to Mercersburg will be challenged in a different environment, away from home, before they come to Annapolis,” says Capt. Don Hughes, the USNA Foundation’s vice president for athletic and scholarship programs. “We know they will have great support not just from teachers and coaches and staff, but also from the family environment there.”

“One of the things that’s really neat is when a student is here three or four years, goes to class and plays sports with and lives alongside the Foundation PGs in the dorms, and then ends up at Annapolis or West Point or Air Force themselves,” Mohr says. “You can really see the value of the program and how it goes full circle.”

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