By Claire Walla
This year, roughly 4,800 high school students applied to the United States Naval Academy’s Summer STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) Program. Of them, only 400 were accepted. And one of them is from Sag Harbor.
“I knew I wanted to apply half-way through seventh grade,” explained Sean Toole, who’s just finishing his freshman year at Pierson High School.
The week-long STEM program, which for Toole will run through this Saturday, June 16, is open to students from eighth through eleventh grade, and offers kids the chance to learn more about science programs at the academy while completing scientific projects of their own. According to a brochure for the program, topics covered will range from biometrics and cyber security to environmental challenges and automation.
Toole actually applied to the program for the first time as an eighth grader, but he wasn’t admitted.
“I was iffy about applying this year, because I don’t like rejection,” he continued. “But I wanted to go.”
“When I first got the letter that said ‘Congratulations,’ I dropped it,” explained Toole, a rather mild-mannered student. “I would have been jumping up and down, but that’s not me.”
In addition to a great interest in science — physics specifically — Toole said he also plans to attend the Naval Academy one day. In a sense, he explained, serving the country is part of his family’s legacy. The great nephew of the late John Ward, a former Sag Harbor mayor who served in World War II as a U.S. Army Tech Sargent — Toole’s family members have also served in the Navy and the Air Force.
But, he also said attending the program would expose him to math and science he’s “probably never seen before,” which will not only be to his benefit, but to the school district as a whole.
“I’ll get to bring information back that nobody else really knows about,” he added.