Ten years ago, an 8-year-old Eddie Gaines watched a YouTube video about the United States Military Academy at West Point and decided that that was where he wanted to be. Now, after having graduated with the Admiral Farragut Academy Class of 2021, Eddie has been accepted to West Point will start on June 28th.
Earning acceptance was the culmination of a long dream. When Eddie entered high school in New York, he started JROTC. He learned what the military could do for him, how he could serve his country, and it verified that was what he really wanted to do. It was one of the reasons he chose to attend Farragut.
“My mom told me about Farragut first,” said Eddie, who is originally from Harlem, New York, and whose family relocated to the St. Petersburg area upon enrolling him at Farragut. “Then my personal lacrosse trainer at the time, who is an alumnus here as well (Kreg Brown ‘07), told me about it too.” Eddie started at Farragut in his junior year.
While at Farragut, Eddie was a member of the National Honor Society, and he took several honors classes, including Calculus, Physics, Spanish, Government, and Economics. “The academies like to see STEM-related courses,” he said. Outside of Farragut, Eddie volunteered his time with the Florida Dream Center, an organization that provides food pantries and aid to local communities that need it most.
Eddie was very involved in athletics as well, and he was captain of both the BlueJacket swim team (pictured during a swim meet) and the lacrosse team (pictured during senior night). He is particularly proud of having been on the 200 Free Relay team that broke the school record, along with his teammates Ben Crawford ‘22, Dylan Rice ‘22, and Dobromir Sokolowski ‘22, and of going to States. He is also proud of becoming team captain for lacrosse so quickly. “I’m not sure what Coach Morris saw in me, but he made me team captain the first time I came out for lacrosse when I was a junior,” Eddie said. He plans to try out for the lacrosse team at West Point.
In his two short years at Farragut, Eddie reached the rank of chief in the Regimental Corps of Cadets, and it wasn’t long until he was applying to service academies.
“It’s a lengthy process,” Eddie said. “After the preliminary and medical requirements and submitting my resume, I had to apply for a nomination from Congressman Charlie Crist, and I didn’t know until December whether I’d gotten it. I also received a school nomination from Farragut.”
It was all a waiting game for Eddie. “At times I did have anxiety about it,” he said. “It’s all about patience. As long as you have patience, you’ll be okay.”
His backup plan was getting a full ROTC scholarship, which he was awarded, but it wasn’t needed. Not only was he accepted to West Point, but he was accepted to the United States Air Force Academy as well.
“Originally I was leaning toward the Air Force Academy,” Eddie said. “But I’ve had the dream of going to West Point for so long. In the end, I knew the army was a better fit for me.”
“Two weeks after I was put on the national waiting list, I got a text from my liaison saying I needed to check the portal,” Eddie continued. “When I checked, it said ‘Congratulations you’ve been accepted into West Point.’ I was ecstatic, I was jumping and running around my house. Nobody else was home at the time, so I had to call my mom and dad. Everyone was really happy.”
Eddie plans to major in either Engineering or International Relations. He plans to either go into the career of military police or military intelligence after he graduates from West Point as a Second Lieutenant and serves his required active duty.
His advice to those seeking to attend service academies is simple. Work hard and be a leader. “Leadership is extremely important, not just to service academies but any college in general,” he said. “Be well-rounded, do extracurricular activities, and work hard. That’s really it.”
“I’m nervous, but I’m excited,” Eddie concluded. “It’s because of Farragut that I know I’m ready for West Point. This is a great school. I love it here and it taught me a lot.”