Clay Senior Has His Sights Set on Naval Academy

Article excerpt

Since the third grade, Joe Garcia has known what he wanted to do with his life.

He was destined to be a Navy man. Period.

"It's all I've ever wanted to do," said Garcia, who lives in Eagle Harbor and grew up in a Navy family. "I don't want to do anything else."

The first step toward that goal was to join the Naval Junior ROTC --- Reserve Officer Training Corps --- in his sophomore year at Clay High School. He later became student commander of the unit.

Now Garcia, a senior at Clay High, is moving closer to his chosen career with his acceptance at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. Next fall, he will be one of 1,200 incoming midshipmen selected by the academy from about 10,000 applicants, a spokesman said.

"I've wanted to go there ever since I found out it existed, in the third grade," said Garcia.

Jack Stimis, naval science instructor at Clay, and Principal Pete McCabe said they knew of no other student from the school to be accepted at the Naval academy, although several have gone on to West Point.

They said they have no doubt Garcia will succeed at Annapolis --- and at whatever else he chooses to tackle.

"Joe is very dedicated to being a college graduate and a Naval officer," said Stimis, adding that he found such focus rare in high school students. "Joe is a very unusual young man . . . If anybody can make it, Joe will."

In addition to being commander of the school's NJROTC, Garcia wrote a code of ethics for the unit. Stimis was so impressed with the document that he adopted it.

"He has extremely high personal values and believes in doing everything as well as he can," Stimis said. "It is great to have a student like Joe; it makes my job easier."

McCabe agreed.

"Joe has such leadership, he just commands leadership. He is a very mature young man . . . Driven by his goals," he said.

McCabe said Garcia was partly responsible for the record enrollment in the school's NJROTC enrollment. There are 176 students in the unit, compared to less than 80 two years ago, he said.

"Just by knowing what the students want . . . he really is a natural leader," McCabe said.

And Garcia will be a natural Navy man.

His father, Louis Garcia of Orlando, is retired from the Navy. …