Austin scholar heads to West Point

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By LORETTA RAGSDELL

In July, Lance Dale Lamar Baggett, a lifelong Austin resident, scholar, and soon-to-be officer and gentleman joined the freshman class of West Point Military Academy in New York. Baggett, 17, graduated on June 9 from Chicago Academy, 3400 N. Austin Blvd.

Throughout his high school years, Baggett maintained a 4.0 grade point average. In addition to being outstanding scholars, West Point recruits are required to play a sport. At Chicago Academy, Baggett was also an extraordinary athlete, which led West Point to recruit him to play football.

Although he does not come from a family with a military background, he will join his brother Terrance, a sophomore, making Lance the second male from his family to attend West Point. Terrance also plays football at West Point. Lance said his interest in West Point is due largely to his brother's favorable account of his experience, and his mother's Internet research skills.

"I became interested in West Point after my brother Terrance went there," Baggett said. "My brother was talking to my mom about being recruited to play football by schools like the University of Pennsylvania, and my mother did some research and came across West Point. She emailed the coach and asked him to check my brother out; he did, and West Point recruited him," Baggett added.

Located in West Point, New York, the United States Military Academy's mission is "to educate, train, and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, Country, and prepared for a career of professional excellence and service to the Nation as an officer in the United States Army."

Recruits are required to be in the upper 15 percent of their graduating class with high SAT or ACT test scores. Although he doesn't recall what his composite score was, Baggett said he scored 26 on three parts of the test. He attributes his success on the tests to participating the Chicago Academy's test prep courses.

Baggett said his ticket to success did not come without hard work. "One thing I did was I took some of the hardest classes that the high school had to offer. I took advance placement courses in calculus, biology, United States history, and I did very well in those classes," he said.

In addition to having scholarly aptitude, recruits must also pass a physical fitness assessment which includes running a seven-minute mile and two-minute cycles of push-ups and chin-ups. In order to attend West Point, the recruits must also obtain a congressional or senatorial nomination. Earlier this year, Congressman Danny K. Davis (D-7th) attended a reception held in the Baggett family's Austin home to honor Lance's congressional nomination and academic achievements. Surrounded by family members and friends, Davis presented Baggett with the congressional nomination papers. This is a coveted spot because there are only 10 nominations per congressional district.

Following in the footsteps of his maternal grandfather, after West Point, Baggett plans a career in medicine. He made this decision after talking with his mother about how the brain works. This intrigued him, as did the stories his mother shared about her father's great work as one of the few, though now increasing, African-American physicians.

While at West Point, Baggett will participate in a six-week-long basic training, after which he will have a short break before starting West Point's rigorous academic training.

But Baggett comes from a family of achievers. His older sister, Latrice Baggett, is an electrical engineer whose work often takes her to Dubai, India and other Middle Eastern countries where she oversees a predominantly male staff. Baggett's father, Terrance, is an accountant, and his mother, Alice, is an Informational Technology specialist and college professor.

What advice would Lance give to other young people desiring to attend West Point or any institution of higher learning? "Everything starts with good study habits and doing the right thing," he replied. "It is important to eliminate all distractions and to stay focused."

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