Two Columbia County high school seniors recently committed themselves to attending prestigious military academies.
Brendon Palowitch of Evans High recently earned admission to the United States Military Academy at West Point in New York, while Lakeside High’s Erin Payne signed her commitment letter last week to attend the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland.
Palowitch, 17, said he knew before entering high school he wanted to attend a military academy, but wavered between West Point and the Air Force Academy. Parental influence eventually sold him on the Army.
“Both my parents are retired Army,” Palowitch said. “Hearing of their experiences helped me make the decision.”
Stellar academics and extracurricular activities – Columbia County Chamber of Commerce Youth Leadership Board, ROTC, Color Guard, cross country, track, Raider and Drill teams, National Honor Society, Math Honor Society, National Beta Club and Math Team – won Palowitch a presidential appointment to the school perennially ranked in the top 10 of “America’s Best Colleges” by Forbes magazine.
After earning a degree in nuclear engineering, Palowitch initially hopes to serve in the Army infantry before transferring to intelligence.
Payne, 17, wants to study biology while in Annapolis to eventually become a Navy nurse.
It seemed fitting that U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, a medical doctor and lieutenant commander in the Navy Reserves, sponsored her application to the academy.
During a letter of intent signing ceremony at the school Friday, Broun said Payne’s leadership skills made her an easy choice for recommendation to the Navy school.
“This is a celebration ... of a lifetime of achievement,” Broun said of Payne’s signing ceremony.
While attending the Naval Academy, Payne also will run for its cross country team.
Though Payne considered West Point, where her sister Evelyn is a sophomore, she was sold on the Naval Academy after a week-long seminar she attended at the school last summer.
“I remember getting up on like the third day I was there and looking out my window over the (Chesapeake) bay,” Payne recalled. “I knew then that was where I wanted to be; where I wanted to serve my country.”