Michael Sims is spending his spring break from college back home in Gainesville.
Sims, 19, graduated from Riverside Military Academy over a year ago. He now attends the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he serves as a member of the Cadet Public Relations Council.
“What that means is, when we have major breaks like spring break or Christmas break or Thanksgiving break, members of the council will leave a little early in exchange for speaking to civic organizations, newspapers and high schools about who we are and what we do.”
Sims visited Riverside on Thursday and spoke to some cadets who are interested in attending West Point. He also watched the academy’s drill rehearsal and attended a parade it hosted Saturday.
His visit to Gainesville, which lasts through the rest of the week, also includes speaking to the Optimist Club, the Gainesville Evening Club, the Boy Scouts of America and the Civil Air Patrol in Lawrenceville.
Sims said he tells those interested in West Point to contact the admissions office.
He wants young people to know West Point is a four-year college just like any other college, which gives out /Bachelor of Science degrees in different majors.
“The difference between West Point and a traditional institution is twofold,” he said. “The first is that it is completely free. It’s paid for by the United States taxpayer. In exchange for the free education, you give five years of active service in the Army as an officer and three years’ reserve service.”
What makes West Point most different from the traditional university is its military structure.
“We do all of the normal military school things: marching and saluting and whatnot,” Sims said. “But also, while we do our schoolwork during the year, during the summer we have military training.”
This includes shooting, military maneuvering and Army training throughout the country.
“For instance, I’ve been to the Army airborne school at Fort Benning, where we jump out of planes,” Sims said. “We partner with other civilian and military agencies to provide military training in the summer.”
This summer, Sims will be going to the Defense Intelligence Agency, or the military counterpart to the CIA. He said West Point provides a number of excellent opportunities for its students, including partnerships with various businesses.
But he credits Riverside for his passion for the military.
“I graduated Riverside Military Academy coming on two years ago when I was 17,” he said. “... And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that my inspiration for service is Col. Kevin Jarrard,” Riverside’s former commandant of cadets.
Sims said attending the academy’s parade was likely to be one of the highlights of his visit.
“I love doing that,” he said of visiting his alma mater. “I love Riverside.”