2017 GNA graduate thriving at West Point


Eric Jeffries, Student Writer


2017 GNA graduate Leandra Ramos is thriving at The United States Military Academy at West Point. For those who know her, that doesn’t come as a surprise. Leandra is a living embodiment of the idea that hard work and determination can bring success. She chose to challenge her mind, her body, and her character in one of the most arduous ways possible for an 18 year old girl. Leandra set an example for the whole community. No matter how seemingly impossible a goal is, if one works hard, does right, and fears nothing, he, or she, can accomplish anything.

The United States Military Academy has an acceptance rate of just 9%. Students who gain admission to the academy really are the cream of the crop, excelling in the classroom, athletics, and extracurricular activities.

West Point first peaked Leandra’s interest when she attended a STEM workshop offered by the academy when she was in 8th grade. STEM, or science, technology, engineering, and math, is a program that provides middle school aged students with an opportunity to learn from West Point faculty in hands-on fashion. From here she resolved, five years before she was accepted, to attend the academy. After discovering how competitive this school actually was, Leandra made sure that her GPA and SAT scores were as high as they could possibly be throughout the entirety of her high school career.

An outstanding report card is usually more than enough to guarantee admission for most colleges, but again West Point is an outlier. Aspiring cadets must endure grueling physical challenges, in addition to keeping their grades up on a rigorous academic track to hold a seat in their class. Soon after arrival on the West Point Campus, these young men and women make a trek 12 miles to a camp at the edge of the military reservation’s property for a six week period of extremely intense physical and mental testing called beast barracks. Additionally, every semester, cadets are required to pass an APFT test, which consists of various body weight exercises and running. Leandra prepared for these two forms of assessment by doing exercises such as pulls ups, sit-ups, pushups, and running.

Leandra lived a very active lifestyle before she had to start getting ready for the academy. In fact, when she learned that she had been accepted, she was at swim practice. She got out of the pool to answer a phone call from Senator Bob Casey’s office and he gave her the news. “There was not much I could do in the moment,” she says, “but my coach was ecstatic and I was able to celebrate with my team.” The rest of Nanticoke was also exceedingly proud, being congratulatory and supportive of her throughout her West Point journey.

Since she has been at the academy for a few months now, The GNA Insider thought it would be a good idea to find out what an average day is like in Leandra’s shoes. Being that she is a first year student, or “plebe” as they are referred to at West Point, she is required to wake up earlier than the rest of her company at 0600 to do chores such as taking out the trash or doing laundry. Then at 0640 she is required to call the minutes in the hallway for breakfast formation. She said it usually sounds something like this: “Attention all cadets, there are 10 minutes until assembly for breakfast formation. The uniform is Army Combat Uniform. For breakfast, we are having eggs, bacon, assorted cereal, and orange juice. 10 minutes remaining.”

Then, after breakfast, which she attends because it is required for plebes, Leandra goes to her morning classes. At the academy, classes are run on a two day schedule. Later, the plebes call lunch formation at 11:50, and then attend their afternoon classes. Before retiring at the end of the night, Leandra heads off to her mandatory boxing practice in the evening.

Preparing for her new school, Leandra knew that she was facing the biggest academic and physical challenge of her life. She came in ready for the extensive toughness that is paired with West Point and is combating it well. There were, however, two things that shocked Leandra. First, she wasn’t aware of how much fun she was going to have. “Events like Spirit dinner, Christmas dinner, and Army/Navy football games allow me to forget about the hard stuff and remember why I wanted to be a part of the Corps,” she says. Second, she didn’t realize how strong the bond she would form with her fellow cadets would be. “Listening to the motivation we give each other during a brigade-wide run or ruck makes me proud to be a member of the Army.”

For most people, after college graduation, the time spent around your alma mater is noticeably limited. One more time, West Point is an outlier. Sure, some people do choose to walk away from the Army after their commencement and choose civilian jobs, but the vast majority stay to pursue careers in the Corps. After graduation, Leandra, who is majoring in civil engineering, will commission as a second lieutenant and hopes to branch into the Core of Engineers. From there she is a little less certain on where she wants to be stationed or what she wants to do, but she is considering a career as an Army Engineer Diver.