Jacksonville teen hopes to follow in father’s footsteps to West Point

Jacksonville teen hopes to follow in father’s footsteps to West Point

Story and Photo by Darren Iozia

Originally printed in the Jacksonville Journal Courier

Joel Ferraro (left) has applied to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York. His father, John Ferraro, graduated from West Point in 1981.

A Jacksonville teen is hoping to follow in his father’s sizable footsteps after graduation and attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Joel Ferraro, 17, a home-schooled senior who plays basketball for Westfair Christian Academy, already has received a nomination to the military academy from U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Illinois.

If accepted, Ferraro would be following his father, John Ferraro.

“He was the Class of ’81,” Joel Ferraro said.

Joel Ferraro started his journey in July with an application process that includes filling out pages of paperwork, seeking nomination letters and writing an essay about why he wants to attend the academy.

“Basically, it’s your motives to why you want to apply,” he said of the essay. “I have always wanted to get in since I was 12.”

Ferraro also traveled to Peoria to face a four-person panel and answer questions about why he wants to be accepted to West Point.

“The panel was pretty chill,” he said.

A required fitness test included a 1-mile run, push-ups, pull-ups and other exercises, among them a basketball throw.

“The basketball test has been that way for decades,” John Ferraro said.

Ferraro was on a bus in January, traveling to an away game with his basketball teammates, when he got the call from his mom that he had been nominated.

“I was like, ‘Are you kidding?'” he said. “I was pretty emotional.”

His mom took it more in stride.

“Honestly, I wasn’t surprised,” Beth Ferraro said. “But I’m biased. I was super excited.”

John Ferraro is proud of his son, not just for earning the nomination from LaHood but for tackling the entire process on his own.

“Joel totally did this on his own initiative,” John Ferraro said.

When John Ferraro applied to West Point, a guidance counselor helped him every step of the way, he said.

“Joel was his own guidance counselor,” he said.

West Point got its start during the Revolutionary War, when Gen. George Washington decided the plateau on the west bank of the Hudson River was the most important strategic position in America. What became Fortress West Point was never captured by the British and West Point stands as the oldest continuously occupied military post in America.

President Thomas Jefferson signed legislation in 1802 that established the United States Military Academy at the same spot.

Today, academy graduates join the U.S. Army as second lieutenants and are required to fulfill a combined eight years of active-duty and Reserve service.

“I want to go into the infantry,” Joel Ferraro said.

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