IR student to attend West Point
When Indian River High School student Jung Son considered what to do after graduation, he was torn. As a bright student, he wanted to continue with college, but he also hoped to follow the South Korean tradition of military service.
Now, Son will truly get the best of both worlds, as he was accepted to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
“I think it’s a big honor to serve our country,” said Son, who lives near Bethany Beach. “It’s not just getting a good education for a good price, it’s having pride in going to West Point and serving your country. … I think it matures people when they go in the Army, any type of military, for a while. That’s one of the things that pushed me to go to West Point, as well.”
Having been accepted into multiple U.S. service academies, Son said choosing between the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and U.S. Military Academy was tough, especially as he spends so much time near water. Ultimately, Son decided West Point would be a better fit for his future goals.
He hopes to study Chinese and engineering and eventually go into foreign relations, serving as a U.S. diplomat.
Cadets in Son’s class will begin 10 weeks of boot camp on July 2. So what are Son’s plans for this short summer vacation?
“Definitely train. It’s going to be very demanding physically and mentally,” he said, although he’ll have some fun too. “It’s going to be hard, but everybody goes through it together. It really builds that bond.”
Son said he looks forward to making lifetime connections at West Point. He still talks to friends he met during one week at West Point summer camp.
“I’m not really nervous, because I think it’ll be fun. I’ll meet a lot of people. That’s what I’m looking forward to,” he said, mentioning the common connection between those who study at West Point.
To other students interested in service academies, Son recommended, “Be alert.” These competitive schools require many nominations, essays and interviews on multiple deadlines, which is why he estimated only 50 percent of people even complete the applications.
“It’s very tedious. They just have to be on top of it to get in,” said Son. “I think it’s the most rigorous thing I’ve ever done, application-wise. … Even if you don’t get in, the process prepares you, matures you.”
Son earned multiple Congressperson nominations. U.S. Sen. Tom Carper and Rep. John Carney nominated him to the U.S. Military Academy, amongst other recommendations.
Son thanked his friends, family and educators for the support that led to a “big portion” of his success: neighbor and “second mother” Gwen Smith, who has helped and encouraged the entire family; local West Point representative Fred Noll, who provided hours of guidance in the application process; IRHS principal Mark Steele, who encouraged Son to participate in school leadership; IR district superintendent Susan Bunting, who personally helped with SAT tutoring; and his parents.
“My parents … they just have the motivation for everything. And they just push me everywhere. Their motto is: money is not the problem. Your education is.”
Son’s father, Young, and his mother, Insoo, heavily supported his education.
At age 11, Son’s family moved to the United States from South Korea. In South Korea, most men must serve in the military, so Jung is following in his father’s footsteps. The family encouraged Jung and his sister, Seung, to work hard for a better future. Now, Jung is readying to attend one of the best schools in the country.
“I usually say to them: if your present is difficult, the future is going to be easy,” said his father, Young Son, who worked in electronics overseas and earned his associate’s degree in Delaware.
“[They are] very supportive parents,” said Steele. “I know they would do anything to help him educationally. They were very active in his education.”
Son is a “top-notch” student, said Steele, who has seen three or four IRHS students go to service academy in his time as principal at the school.
From attending SAT summer boot camps to swimming and playing tennis at IR, Son also kept busy as student body president and founder of the IR Foreign Languages Activity Group.
Son said he enjoys living in Sussex County, as “People are so nice around here, you know? They go out of their way to help me,” but he said summer camps have opened his eyes to the vast world beyond Delaware: “The world is much bigger than the U.S., itself.”
“He’ll be successful,” predicted Steele. “He’s never going to fail due to not working. He is a hard-working kid.”