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SMA Alumni Society

Living the Values

 

 

 

I attended the Sarasota Military Academy from 2010 - 2013. I went on to obtain a dual degree in Finance and Business Economics at the Leonard N. Stern School of Business at New York University on a full-tuition scholarship. During my time at NYU, I studied in New York City, Prague in the Czech Republic, and in Melbourne Australia, and I visited over a dozen different countries. Following my time at NYU, I have had exceptional opportunities to work alongside incredible leaders at market defining technology companies, renowned investors, and inspiring early-stage entrepreneurs. Today, I am in a position where I am fortunate enough to pursue building my own business.
I often reflect on how the relationships I built as a cadet and the experiences I had during my time at the Sarasota Military Academy have impacted my trajectory. While it is difficult to distill such a formative time of my life into a few paragraphs, I know for a fact that I would not be in the position I am today, with the opportunities I have in front of me, had it not been for my time at SMA. I was a cadet student at SMA during a challenging period in my life, when I was at times in need of housing support and financial resources were extremely limited. Along the way, however, I benefited from the incredible and overflowing generosity of countless supporters within the SMA network. I carry with me still a debt of gratitude to the faculty, my classmates, and the administration for their roles in helping me stay the course to graduation. I did not know what to expect of my time at the Academy when I was starting as a freshman, and knowing what I know now, I would be amazed by the path ahead. For anyone considering SMA for their children, I would like to share some of my experiences and perspective to help inform your decision.
My alarm starts ringing at 5:30am, and I spring out of bed to begin preparations. First, I iron my shirt to make sure I smooth out any wrinkles and renew the creases along the sleeves. I use a ruler to check that my crest and name tag are aligned on my uniform. I review my appearance in the mirror, noting that my hair is presentable and in accordance with the student handbook’s guidelines on dress code. Satisfied that I have my uniform and personal appearance in order, I lace up my new shiny black Bates oxford shoes and take care not to scuff them on my way out of the door. This is the first day of my Freshman year at the Sarasota Military Academy, morning formation is at 07:15, and I must not be late. I arrive on campus 15 minutes early, to a bustling scene of cadets preparing for the morning formation. I seek out my assigned class on the pavers, and I take a cue from a senior cadet to fall in line. Within minutes, all students across all four years are standing side by side, called to attention. Everyone is completely silent. Following instruction, we begin formation with the pledge of allegiance, with every student and faculty member speaking in unison. The sun is rising over the formation, and the headmaster addresses the Academy to welcome the freshman class and make announcements for the day ahead. After 30 minutes or so, formation is dismissed and we quickly make our way to stand in line outside of the first class of the day.
This series of events will play out every weekday, weather permitting, for the next four years. Along the way, I will move from being routinely inspected and instructed by senior classmates, to taking on a junior role leading a class of over 30 students, to stepping into a role as a senior cadet leading formation for the nearly 1,000 students across the Academy. The path is not easy, but I will be supported every step of the way. I will be challenged to guide my classmates through training exercises, drills, and academic projects. I will be assigned a leadership role to guide tours for prospective cadets and their families. I will coordinate parades for the Academy to honor our veterans and remember the sacrifices of those who dedicate themselves to our armed forces. I will learn the invaluable lessons that can only be learned by being a member in a team that succeeds and fails together.
In many ways, this experience will be transformative. By the end of my freshman year, I will have overcome my hesitation for public speaking, practiced conflict resolution, learned the basics of first aid, and built disciplined habits for attention to detail and the pursuit of excellence that will serve me for life. By the time I finish my junior year, I will have more practical leadership, team building, and project management experience than many of my peers at other schools will have over the first 10 years of their careers. When I finally graduate from the Academy four years after that first day in formation, I will feel a great sense of accomplishment for the transformation I have undergone as a cadet, and I will also feel a great sense of loss for leaving behind an organization that empowered me along the way.
As I stand there with my diploma in hand and bound for university, I will find that I am filled with optimism, knowing I am equipped to navigate the many challenges and opportunities that are waiting for me on the path ahead.
Jessiah Straw, Class of 2013
 
12 March: Raiders Rise and Run 5K - Support the Raiders Teams! Deadline 3/8 ~ Register Here!
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