senior John Nicholson has dreams of flying. Hovering, actually.
"I always wanted to be a helicopter pilot," said Nicholson, 17, who has plans to fly in the Marine Corps or the Army.
Graduation is half a year away, and he has his eyes set on the prestigious U.S. Naval Academy. With the school's acceptance rate at only 10 percent, he has his work cut out for him.
The highly competitive process first requires a nomination from an official such as a congressman or senator. There are also physical fitness and medical exams, interviews, and the standard academic exams.
Nicholson is preparing for a Tuesday interview with Georgia Congressman Phil Gingrey, a Marietta Republican, from whom he hopes to receive a nomination.
Nicholson said he's a little nervous, although he gained confidence after completing his Blue and Gold officer interview a month earlier.
While the Naval Academy is his dream school, he's being realistic about other options. Also on his list are UGA, Jacksonville State, North Georgia, Embry-Riddle Aeuronautical and Savannah State, all schools he chose for their strong ROTC programs.
If he doesn't make it into the Naval Academy this year, he'll do a year of ROTC at another school and apply again. Nicholson's ultimate goal is to join the military, no matter which route he takes.
He has admired service members ever since he can remember.
"I just thought they were courageous people," he said. "People in the military, they sacrifice a lot of things. They're willing to put themselves in danger."
He added: "I want to be a hero, someone people can look up to."
His passion for service has channeled itself into involvement in JROTC, Boy Scouts and martial arts.
Academically, his current schedule consists of AP microeconomics, AP environmental science, basic PE and JROTC. He also has taken AP courses in language, European history, U.S. history and geography.
Physics is one of his favorite subjects, but not math.
"You can see physics happening every day, like how a car can move 90 miles per hour or how a space shuttle can exit the atmosphere," Nicholson said.
"I'm able to visualize physics, but for most math, I can't visualize it."
He joined the Harrison cross-country team to prepare for the Naval Academy's physical examination.
"I'm proud of myself," said Nicholson, who cut his 5K time from 29 minutes to 22 1/2 minutes over the past two years.
As a Boy Scout in Troop 350, he's a month from becoming an Eagle Scout. He just completed his required Eagle Project, in which he led the construction of a fence, patio and cross for .
He's the unit chaplain of and joint JROTC program. As Harrison academic team captain, he's led the team to success in many competitions.
Nicholson placed second at the academic exams during a recent drill meet. He breezed through most of the questions, but pop culture was his downfall: He didn't know Jennifer Lopez is the newest American Idol judge.
Nicholson said he finds it hard to identify with some of his generation. He's not one for late-night parties, and he can't stand auto-tuned music.
His musical tastes lie elsewhere, in such bands as Metallica, AC/DC, Slipknot and Judas Priest. He's also a fan of "patriotic country" artists like Toby Keith.
He enjoys watching action movies with his dad, whom he describes as one of his greatest heroes.
"I look up to my dad because he dedicates a lot of time to me and my siblings. He's a good person," Nicholson said.
His father served in the Army for five years and worked on a helicopter crew part of that time.
"My dad said that a flight on a helicopter is one of the best feelings," Nicholson said.
He and his father have tried out a few remote-control helicopters to get a feel for the flight patterns. "I just find it cool that they can hover above ground, almost like they're taunting you. Just perfectly still in the air."
Kennesaw Patch will check in regularly with John and other seniors as they apply for colleges, make plans to join the military or workforce, and prepare for post-high-school life.