Lee Academy senior Howie Francis keeps busy. In addition to his high school course load, he plays basketball and baseball, is a musician in the L.A. band, and is a member of French Club and National Honor Society. Despite his hectic schedule, Francis has excelled academically and during his senior year was accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, and the United States Military Academy, better known as West Point. Francis will be joining the U.S. Naval Academy after graduating from Lee Academy on June 3rd.
“The decision was made before I even applied anywhere,” he says. “I always knew that I wanted to go to the Naval Academy, since about eighth grade.” Before that he had his sights set on joining the Air Force, but seeing a movie about the Navy got him interested in that option. He did his research and adjusted his plans accordingly. “I came into Lee Academy with the focus that I was going to do everything I can to make myself a strong candidate for admission to the Naval Academy,” he says. He applied to the Coast Guard and West Point to hedge his bets, and ended up earning acceptances to all three academies. His goal is to become a pilot but, in true Francis form, he has a back-up: other than aviation, “surface warfare is what’s most appealing to me,” he says. The possibility of not becoming a pilot did factor into his decision. “I found that, in the Navy, there’s more to do if I’m not a pilot” than there would be in the Air Force, he explains.
The Navy is also appealing because “I always knew that I wanted to go to college,” Francis says. With the service academies, it’s free, and “I knew that I’d get a job right after I graduate, and I’ll be an officer and eventually I’ll end up making more than an enlisted person… that was all appealing to me.” There is also some military background in his family. Francis will be the first commissioned officer, but his parents have both been in the Army and his father, who has been in the military since 1993, is a Chief Warrant Officer 4. His parents were both enlisted when they met and Francis was born in Heidelberg, Germany, where he lived on various posts until he was about five years old. He has gone to school in Lee since then. His mother is a 1995 graduate of Lee Academy, and his grandmother and great-grandparents also attended, making Francis a Lee legacy. His sister will start Lee Academy in the fall.
Francis’ plan for making himself a strong candidate for the Navy included taking difficult classes (though not strictly AP), including things like honors math classes, physics, and chemistry. “Freshman year I was stressing out; if I got a B I’d think, ‘oh no, I’m not going to get into the Academy,’” he jokes. He maintained a challenging but manageable course load so he could also participate in his extracurricular activities; as he says, “they look at the whole person.” One of his extracurriculars includes playing trumpet in the band, where he says he has a blast and credits teacher and band director Neil Gibbs with helping improve his playing “five- or six-fold.”
His advice for future students and military hopefuls? “It’s all about how much you want it… you don’t have to be exceptionally smart to achieve what you want to do… you just have to know that you have a goal and that you’re going to give as much of your time or effort as you can to achieve that goal,” he says. “I’m not smarter than anybody, I just want to work harder for some things.”
Francis graduates from Lee Academy on June 3rd and will be inducted into the U.S. Naval Academy on June 29th. It will be a big month for the ambitious Lee local!