The United States Navy turns out a batch of trained recruits every year, but one year from now, it will be getting its hands on a truly talented young man. Ayush Puri, a 17-year-old Deptford Township High School senior, participates in the Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps and is the winner of a scholarship from the United States Naval Academy Foundation.
It has been a dream of his to join the Navy ever since he went on a field trip to the Naval Academy and fell in love with the idea of being a naval officer for the nation.
“When I went to the Naval Academy I was just influenced by all those leaders leading the group of people and I wanted it to be part of it. I wanted to work for it and I could see what the Naval Academy was for me,” said Puri.
He applied last year. The process is a long one, but he stuck it out. Last summer, he participated in the Naval Academy’s summer seminar program. He spent two weeks and five days learning the ins and outs of the Navy.
“That summer seminar had an inside view of the whole Naval Academy and shipments. How they spend their daily life, and what it’s like to be in the Naval Academy, and I loved it,” said Puri.
Because he is 17 years old he is not permitted to attend the Naval Academy, and, because of that, he was awarded a chance to go to the Peddie School in Hightstown until he is eligible to join the ranks of the Naval Academy.
This placement will be tuition-free, at a scholarship awarded to him of $42,660. Fortunately for him, the Peddie School is a boarding school, which will allow him to visit his parents on the weekends, something almost every mother likes to hear.
“First and foremost, I was excited when I got the call from the Naval Academy because I did not have any idea that I could get into such a big school,” he said. “That was a very big dream for me to get into the Naval Academy. Having accomplished such a big dream as a senior was fantastic because applying to colleges is so stressful, but finally when you get to the point, it’s like a jackpot.”
Puri will enter the Naval Academy in the fall of 2020 as a member of the class of 2024 and a future commissioned officer in the United States Navy or Marine Corps.
He was so elated that he was in tears because he spent months checking his application status on a daily basis. What surprised him was that he received notice of approval by phone. It was rare because Naval Academy applicants rarely receive the news that way.
He made his decision because of his time with the Navy ROTC at Deptford High School.
“Everything is because of the Navy ROTC and all the leadership skills. Everything I got taught came from ROTC, and I don’t know what to say to all the teachers, captain and senior chief from ROTC, a big shout out to them,” he said.
“You have to work hard, You have to study hard, you have to get good grades, being disciplined, never getting in trouble, be a leader, do for other people and leading by example. That’s what I did,“ he said.
He’s the type of person who is dedicated to always being productive and that is why he joined the ROTC.
“It was an elective. I could easily do study hall, do nothing and go on my phone, easily do wood shop or do whatever I want having fun, but I wanted to do a class where you could easily get the leadership skills. I chose to do ROTC and had more fun while meeting a new group of people,” he said.
Capt. Richard A. Colonna, USN retired, the senior naval science instructor at Deptford Township High School, sees a lot of promise with Puri.
“He’s outstanding in many ways, he has good leadership qualities,” said Colonna. “He wears his uniform with pride, he’s well-rounded, he’s involved in a lot of things. He’s the type of kid that the academies like to see and the type of kids that we try to build here.”
The captain believes that his future is bright and that he can go wherever he wants to go.
He is also the president of the Sewell chapter of the Red Cross, a volunteer group that helps people with disabilities.
What keeps Puri going is his commitment to never giving in and trying to make himself better.
“Even if you fail you get a new life lesson, and life lessons are great,” he said. “You get to know more about life. If you fail that’s fine, you can try again next time and you won’t feel like you’re not succeeding. You got to have pride and face your failures head on.”