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DHS grad headed for U.S. Naval Academy prep school

Jacob Norton officially wrapped up his high school career last week, marching across the field at Demopolis’ Tiger Stadium and donning the gold sash indicative of his honor line status. As impressive as that achievement was, Norton’s greatest challenges most certainly lie in front of him as he has accepted an appointment to the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Newport, R.I.

Once he arrives at the prep school later this summer, Norton will begin a trek toward his ultimate goal of studying at the U.S. Naval Academy.

“I had been talking to many of my recruiters about school opportunities,” Norton, who spent two years in JROTC at Demopolis High School, said of his chat with local military recruiters. “When they saw my ASVAB score, they asked if I would be interested in applying to West Point.”

So Norton, who had already chosen to enlist in the Marine Corps, began the process of applying to the military academies.

“There are a lot of essays and paperwork, it is almost like enlisting,” Norton said of the process, which typically requires a nomination from a congressman in order to receive legitimate consideration. “I got a nomination from Artur Davis, Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby.”

Davis endorsed Norton’s applications to West Point and Annapolis while Sessions and Shelby each signed off on nominations to West Point.

“There were so many people who applied to the military academies this year,” Norton said. “If I have my numbers correct, there were 18,000 people applying to the academies this year.”

Norton knew the odds he faced when applying, but said that his cause was helped by two facts.

“One of the things that set me up the best was I had already enlisted in the Marine Corps,” Norton said. “I’ve talked with just about every recruiter from our area. My ASVAB scores are really high. They started talking to me about being a nuclear engineer and that really got me interested.”

Norton, who is not yet 18 years old, was drawn to the military for a number of reasons, particularly for the “camaraderie and brotherhood.”

While the appointment to the prep school is an accomplishment in itself, Norton also knows his road is just beginning as he seeks to gain entrance into the academy at Annapolis.

“The main reason I didn’t get into the academy is that I had not taken calculus yet and that was the lowest math they had,” Norton explained.

In an effort better prepare himself for what lies ahead, he has spent some time at nearby Marion Military Institute, to gain some measure of perspective on his forthcoming experiences.

“I’ve got an idea that it will be a bit like MMI,” Norton said. “But since we’ve all already enlisted and all have the same goals, it will be really competitive.”

Norton said he is excited about the appointment as it is affording him an opportunity to continue his education that otherwise would not be available.

“If not for this appointment, I would not be going to college at the same time as everyone else,” Norton said. “I would be in basic training instead.”

“It makes me proud,” Rachel Fitzhugh, Norton’s mother, said. “I was just very honored that he was even willing to think about the military in the first place. That’s very unselfish.”

Norton’s march toward Annapolis may not be complete, but is now considerably easier thanks in large part to his ASVAB scores.

“They told him that with his scores as high as they are, he would still be able to get a second nomination. Even if he didn’t get a second nomination, he would still be able to get in through the commandant of the school,” Fitzhugh said. “He just has to keep his grades up.”

Norton anticipates heading to Rhode Island in mid-July.