ANNAPOLIS, Md. (NNS) -- The Naval Academy's incoming Class of 2013 is the most diverse in Academy history, according to the Academy superintendent.
Of the more than 1,200 students anticipated in the Class of 2013, approximately 450 will represent minority groups. There is a significant increase in African-American and Hispanic students in particular, with African-Americans making up 10 percent of the class and Hispanics representing 14 percent.
According to Vice Adm. Jeffrey Fowler, superintendent, increasing the diversity of the brigade of midshipmen is vital to developing leaders who fully represent the nation they serve and the Sailors and Marines they will lead in the future.
"Our nation has a talent from all locations and backgrounds to serve our nation well during war time," said Fowler. "It's our job to find the talent, show them the impressive opportunity to serve that we offer...and then provide them with the tools to grow and develop into warriors ready to serve our nation."
The Class of 2013 was chosen from a pool of over 15,000 of the highest quality applicants, the most since 1988. Minority applications represent 29 percent of this total, a 57 percent increase from the previous year and the highest number of minority applications ever received by the Academy.
Fowler attributed this increased interest to the numerous recruitment and outreach efforts developed and managed by Academy staff and faculty, highlighting the efforts of the Admissions Office.
"We all care so much about this school that we're willing to put forth the effort to go out there and engage these kids," according to Lt. Jeanine Benjamin, one of eight admissions counselors.
According to Benjamin, the primary issue they face is lack of awareness of the Academy and the opportunities available. The Admissions Office focuses on students early, particularly those in middle school and just starting high school, so that they can prepare to take advantage of those opportunities.
"What [we're] talking about is commitment. These folks are doing a phenomenal job," said U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings.
Early opportunities for students to become familiar with the Navy and the Academy include the Naval Academy Summer Seminar (NASS) program for high school students and the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Camp for middle school students, designed to foster enthusiasm for the hard sciences.
These programs have seen a significant increase in applications in 2009. 6,680 students applied to NASS, up from about 5,500 in 2008. Of the more than 2,000 students attending, nearly half represent minorities. In its second year, the STEM Camp will host 200 middle school students over a two-week period.
Two-thirds of NASS attendees ultimately apply to the Academy, and out of the incoming Class of 2013, nearly half of the female, African-American and Hispanic students attended NASS prior to applying.
Fowler addressed the accomplishments of these students once they are at the Academy, indicating the historically high number of minority midshipmen earning recognition on the Superintendent's or Dean's List for academic excellence.
To ensure students have all the tools needed for success, the Academy created a program through its Center for Academic Excellence to identify students who are struggling academically and assist them through a variety of programs including extra instruction classes, peer tutoring and learning skills seminars. According to Academic Dean and Provost William Miller, the focus is on development rather than attrition.
"I think this is an amazing program," said U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski. "The philosophy [Dean Miller] stated of development versus attrition, success versus failure - I think other colleges and universities could learn from."
The Academy's graduation rates in all minority categories are high, with over 85 percent of women and Hispanics and 76 percent of African-Americans graduating. The graduation rates for African-American and Hispanic students far exceed the national average.
Overall, the class of 2009 had one of the highest graduation rates in Academy history, with greater than 85 percent of the class earning a Bachelor of Science degree in four years.
"As a national institution, we've worked hard to reach out to all of America," said Fowler. "We remain committed to developing midshipmen ready to meet the demands of a country at war."
For more news from United States Naval Academy, visit www.navy.mil/local/usna/.