By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN He’s been spending most of his time in New York as a West Point cadet lately, but Patrick Sweeney hasn’t forgotten his Delano roots.
Last week, the 2011 Delano High School graduate had the opportunity to share his experiences with other Delano students who are considering a military career.
“I was surprised at the number of students interested,” Sweeney said, explaining that some had already signed up for the Army National Guard.
In addition to Delano High School, Sweeney also met with students at Orono High School, Watertown-Mayer High School, and Providence Academy in Plymouth.
Sweeney, who was appointed to the cadet public relations council, enjoys being a representative for West Point.
“I just think West Point has a good program,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed my time there immensely.”
Sweeney’s parents, Todd and Patty Sweeney, and his sister, Hannah (a junior at Delano High School), don’t have a military background, but Sweeney does have some relatives who served.
His grandfather, for example, was in World War II. In addition, two uncles were in the Marines, and one uncle was in the Air Force.
“A common misconception is that [West Point] only takes people with military backgrounds, and that’s not the case at all,” Sweeney said. “They want a diverse student population.”
When Sweeney began researching colleges his sophomore year of high school, he decided only to apply at West Point.
“I had my heart set on it,” he said.
When he arrived, the first six weeks consisted of basic training. Sweeney said it was neat to see the transformation in the students by the end of the program.
“People need to learn to be followers before they can become leaders,” he said.
West Point graduates are required to complete five years of active duty, followed by three years of reserve service. After that, they can choose to continue with a military career or transition into a civilian occupation.
Sweeney said that from what he’s heard from others, West Point’s education is more in depth than other colleges.
“The average at most schools is 15 to 16 credits a semester, whereas here, most take 19 to 22.5 credits,” Sweeney said.
Sweeney doesn’t mind the extra work, however.
“Everything can kind of become relative once you get used to it,” he said. “You get so good at managing time. It’s honestly not that bad; it’s all manageable.”
In high school, Sweeney kept busy with football and track, and was captain of the track team his senior year. He was also part of the National Honor Society, and helped Delano faculty facilitate student conferences.
Being back in the halls of Delano High School, Sweeney said it was almost like he never left.
“It’s nice to be able to go off and do different things, and then come back and see that relatively little has changed,” he said.
For Sweeney, attending school at West Point helped him develop a global perspective.
“It’s made me more aware of world events,” he said. “I also feel a lot more confident talking in front of groups.”