Cadets tell the story best: Meet Jack Winters ‘16 and Michael Cooney ‘16, two of our cadets joining us for our Annual Pine Beach Reunion

Over the years, we have introduced members of our Corps of Cadets into many of our alumni events throughout the country. It is an honor that we introduce you to two cadets that wave the Farragut Flag with pride and strength. Seniors, Michael Cooney and Jack Winters, are model Farragut cadets that we are extremely proud of. Both came to Farragut with personal goals and will graduate this May prepared for the next step as mature, confident individuals.

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Meet Jack Winters ‘16

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Two years ago, Jack Winters admits to being somewhat of a homebody, somewhat of a “skittish kid.”

“I kept to myself quite a bit,” said Jack, whose given name is John.

As a senior entering the last few months of his two-year journey at Admiral Farragut Academy, Jack is proud to say he is no longer the same.

“Initially, I didn’t want to go away to a boarding school, especially one that was approximately 2,500 miles away from home,” said Jack, who is originally from Florence, Montana. “I was kind of that kid who thought he knew everything and didn’t need to grow up. When my parents suggested Farragut, though, I did the research online and thought it might be good for me.”

His first year was spent indoctrinating himself with the culture of Farragut, learning the intricacies and appreciating the nuances of it, all while interacting with a roommate from England with a British accent and another roommate from Vietnam who spoke broken English.

“We were somewhat of a microcosm of what Farragut is all about, being from all different parts of the world,” said Jack, whose roommates that first year were James Hales ‘15 and Tony Hoang ‘16. “James was great, though. He had been here for quite a while so he gave me tons of advice on how to get your uniform right, definitely showed me the ropes about the culture of Farragut and how to behave and how to work with others.”

Jack, though, knew Farragut was exactly where he needed — and wanted — to be.

“I’ve always wanted to fly fighter jets, ever since my parents took me to see the Blue Angels perform when I was like 7-years-old,” said Jack, who is currently working on his private pilot license. “When I saw online what type of place it was, I knew it would be a life-changer.”

Indeed, it has.

“Meeting kids from all over the world, interacting with peers who have expectations to succeed, being a part of a regiment and watching the way cadet officers lead their peers, it gives you a perspective on life that helps mold you into a mature, responsible person,” said Jack, who serves as Administration Officer and an Adjutant Officer within our Regimental Command. “This school has done great things for me. Before I could barely hold a 3.0 grade point average. Currently, I have a 3.8. This school has shaped who I am, a leader, someone who is confident about the future and has high expectations for myself. If you had told me my sophomore year that I would be living at a boarding school and holding leadership positions in the future, I would have called you crazy. Looking back, it shows how much I’ve grown, how so many changes can lead to good things. You can grow up and do big things here. It helps you grow up and face obstacles and realize you don’t have to be scared to accomplish whatever you want in life.”

A large part of that ascension stems from the interaction with like-minded individuals.

“It’s really been a combination of seeing everyone around you grow and develop into successful people,” said Jack, who was recently received an appointment to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and is awaiting word from the Naval Academy. “Last year was focused on who I was and what I was doing and how could I set myself up to be at the status of an officer and a leader by observing others. This year, I’m immersed in it. There’s something to be said about the confidence and strength one has to have to stand in front of hundreds of other teenage high school kids and lead them.”

In addition, the added pressure of achieving a similar level of success set forth by previous classes fuels greater aspirations.

“Last year’s graduating class definitely set the bar high,” Jack said when asked about the goals set by the Class of 2016. “We’ve heard it a lot about living up to the standards set before us so, yes, there is an intangible thing and unspoken approach but we have talked amongst ourselves about exceeding expectations.”

Jack said the men leading the Office of the Commandant — Naval Science Commander Rick Schock,Commandant Todd Wallingford, and United States Marine Corps 1st Sgt. David Worthy — have also been instrumental in instilling a certain sense of toughness that will go a long way in life.

“They are pushing us to where we need to be,” Jack said. “They are tough but they’re not tyrants. 1st Sgt. Worthy pushes you to be the best you can be. It’s exactly what we need as we move forward, facing obstacles in life. Farragut as a whole, though, has prepared me for a lot of things in the future, living on my own, learning responsibilities, accountability, how to manage my time, my money, myself. Taught me a lot for going to college and being ready for the real world. More so, it’s helped me become fearless, instilled confidence in a way I never would have received, and prepared me for life.”

Fun facts about Jack:

  • Did you visit Farragut before your first day of school? No, the first time I saw the school in person was on move-in day for boarders.
  • Best places you have travelled to? Honolulu, Boston, New York City, all the major cities on the West Coast, Denver, Las Vegas.
  • Since Hawaii is one of your favorite spots to visit, have you ever attempted to surf? I did it once, almost broke my teeth on the front of the board and said, okay, I tried that once, that’ll be it. It looks so easy to see the surfers moving around the waves like that, though.
  • Favorite military movie? Well, I’ve seen Top Gun because doesn’t everyone who wants to be a Navy pilot, but there’s so many things wrong with it. My favorite of all time, though, is Saving Private Ryan.
  • Sports? I’ve played soccer at Farragut for two years. Also, cross country and track.
  • Sports fan? Red Sox fan. My parents are from there.
  • Any siblings? A younger brother who goes to a private, day school back home. He’s into acting, music, performing arts. I have much respect for him because I am the complete opposite. I am more of a math, science person.
  • Spare time? Netflix. Every kid does now. Favorite show, Archer.

Meet Michael Cooney ‘16

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Since coming to Farragut at the beginning of his sophomore year, Michael Cooney’s plate has been full. You name it, Michael has done it with activities that have included student government, the Student Advisory Council, band, chorus, dramatic arts, the drill team, the Model U.N. Club, varsity baseball and cross country.

In addition, Michael, who is the president of the Farragut chapter of the National Honor Society and the vice president of the local chapter of the Key Club, has prided himself on volunteering.

Throughout much of his tenure as a member of the BlueJackets baseball team, Michael has participated as a coach in the Challenger League, which is for baseball players with physical or mental disabilities. He also has given his time at the American Legion Post 125, serving breakfast to veterans, while also working at TASCO (Teen, Arts, Sports, Cultural Opportunities) as a counselor.

It’s rewarding to be able to give back,” said Michael, who is vice president of the local chapter of the Key Club. “It gives you purpose. I was interested in volunteer work before coming to Farragut but since coming here, I’ve really grown as a person. Farragut gives you the confidence to lead from the front and I’ve tried to do as much as I can to make a difference.”

Michael, who transferred from Osceola High School, said his growth as a leader wouldn’t have come about if it hadn’t been for his time at Farragut.

Before I came here, I only knew of Farragut, or at least what I thought it was, as a military school where you sent bad kids,” said Michael, who is the Headquarters Battalion Commander. “I tell my friends now how that perception is completely wrong. Farragut is a place where leaders are made and strengthened. All the leadership opportunities I’ve undertaken are because of me being here.”

For example, Michael took it upon himself to re-arrange the band room last year so it was more conducive to an orchestra formation. He also rearranged the back room of the band room so sections of the band can practice there or lessons can be taught there.

The leadership characteristics I’ve been able to develop here have helped me immensely,” said Michael, who plays the lead trumpet in the Admiral’s Band. “Thinking back to who I was and who I would have been is amazing. I’ve been able to do so many different things here where at other schools, you get one club or one sport to choose.”

Furthermore, Michael was one of the accomplished few from Farragut to attend the USNA Summer Seminar in Annapolis, MD. The program, which introduces prospective Naval Academy applicants to the unique challenges of life as a midshipman, typically has approximately 7,000 worldwide applicants each year with 2,500 chosen.

Being at Farragut first gave me the thought of possibly attending the Naval Academy,” said Michael, who was a counselor for Leadership Academy during this past summer. “Now, it’s definitely a reality that I want to attend.”

Michael, who has already been accepted by 12 colleges like the Eckerd College, the University of Florida, and the University of South Florida, will find out about the Naval Academy sometime in April.

Fun facts about Michael:

  • How long have you played baseball? Since I was 4. Corynn Miner (the star softball pitcher for Farragut who will attend the University of Tampa and play on the collegiate team) actually played Little League baseball with me for a couple of years.
  • And your sister plays softball, too. Right? Yes, (Maya) is an 8th-grader and is on the team. She doesn’t play much right now because she is a pitcher but she is learning a lot by watching Corynn pitch and by being around the veterans. She does play for a travel team for the Northwest Youth Softball club.
  • Can you tell us about how you met (former Tampa Bay Rays and current Pittsburgh Pirates utility player) Sean Rodriguez? Well, my “niece-ster” — she’s my niece, but she lives with us now because her mom passed away in 2012 so she’s like my sister — Bella, age 6 now, has Stage 3 Neuroblastoma cancer and when she was in the hospital at All Children’s (in 2013), Sean Rodriguez came to visit her. He actually visited her a few times.
  • How is Bella doing now? She is doing great. She is in Kindergarten at Madeira Beach Fundamental and she is incredible. I guess the doctors can’t diagnose her as cancer-free yet because of her age but she is as healthy as can be. She is truly a blessing. My mom (Susan) is basically her mom now.
  • So I guess you’re a Rays fan, then? I’ve been a Rays and Bucs fan pretty much my whole life. My dad (Mike) has put together these big neighborhood get-togethers for the Bucs games for as long as I can remember.
  • Speaking of sports, besides baseball, do you play anything else? I have been on the cross country team at Farragut the entire time I’ve been here. I also played football my first year here but then decided to focus on baseball.
  • You’ve travelled a lot because of the different opportunities at Farragut. Best places you’ve been? Washington, D.C. was incredible. I’ve been there a few times with the Drill Team and also with the band. For the band, we went to a competition in Wisconsin.
  • And you sing? Yes. I am in the chorus, but I also was in the musical, Into the Woods, last year. That was fun.
  • You also went to Germany? Yes, I visited a friend there for about six weeks. I worked for my dad at his flooring company to save up money to go. It was a great experience.
  • The trip or putting in floors? Both. I learned a lot about what it takes to do what my dad does. I respect it even more now. The trip was incredible because we went to see some professional soccer games and we travelled all over Germany.
  • What do you enjoy doing in your spare time, seemingly limited as it is? Playstation 4. Some of my friends from Farragut come over on the weekends and we’ll play Madden.