BY KATE BUNSTER
NISKAYUNA — On Nov. 23, Niskayuna alumna Justice Constantine made a visit to the high school to meet with current senior Noah Chaskin to discuss life at the U.S. Naval Academy and being a member of the rowing team there.
Constantine is in her last year at the Academy, majoring in Arabic with a Spanish minor, and Chaskin will be attending next fall to study mechanical engineering.
“It was pretty awesome. Definitely a humbling feeling,” Chaskin said of when he was recruited to row for USNA. Despite some of the challenging years that may be ahead of him, he is excited to get started in this opportunity.
Going into the U.S. Naval Academy isn’t the typical college experience and it isn’t for everyone, according to Constantine. She had about a week to reflect on her high school graduation before she packed up and said goodbye to her family to attend “plebe summer,” a “period designed to turn civilians into midshipmen,” as stated on the USNA’s website.
Instead of being greeted with a cup of cheap beer and setting up their video game systems, plebes are stripped of their electronics. “For the next seven weeks, you start your days at dawn with an hour of rigorous exercise and end them long after sunset, wondering how you will make it through the next day,” reads the USNA website. All their time is allocated for them, including when they can talk on the phone to their family members. Cellphones have to be handed back in after their 30 minutes is up.
“It gets really stressful,” said Constantine, who had the added responsibility of being on a sports team.
While the Naval Academy provides a different experience, students who attend its precollege summer program typically know what they are signing up for. Getting into the program requires an application process and if the applicant gets in, they spend their summer learning what life is like at the school, attending both classes and workouts.
“It lets you know what you’re up against,” said Constantine, who wasn’t scared off by the program.
“When I picked her up she got in the car and was like, ‘that was really hard, but I really liked it,’ ” said her mom, Demantra.
Though Constantine admits that there have been times when she has wanted to leave — especially during plebe year — she was able to push forward by keeping her focus on the end goal.
“I told Noah to take everything with a grain of salt. All the stress is to make you stronger,” said Constantine, who admits she wishes that there had been someone to give her advice when she was in Chaskin’s shoes. This is why she returned to Niskayuna to give him advice.
Some people might question why anybody would want to attend a school like this — to break from the typical mold of college that gives you the independence to do as you please. Going to the Naval Academy has provided Constantine with an experience that she can take anywhere though.
“It really prepares you so you can talk and listen to people who are only capable of being followers,” her mother said.
Now in her senior year, Constantine has gone from plebe to effective leader.
“I made the right decision,” she said.