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SOUTHPORT—South Brunswick High School senior Conall MacKenzie is the first student from the school to receive an appointment to the United States Naval Academy.
MacKenzie has had his sights set on attending a service academy since his sophomore year, when he began comparing the Merchant Marines, Coast Guard and Naval Academy programs.
“I saw Annapolis and was blown away,” MacKenzie said.
In the summer of 2012, MacKenzie attended a weeklong Naval Academy Summer Session where he got a taste of the eight-week orientation that will begin in June.
“I enjoyed it, but I could tell others were having a terrible time. I looked forward to each day. It was fun, and they kept giving us challenges; and for the most part, we rose to them,” MacKenzie said.
Continuing his education in and around the water was a natural for MacKenzie, 17, who has worked with his uncle, Kevin Hennessey, at North Carolina Boat Rentals and the Cape Fear Sailing Academy at Southport Marina.
MacKenzie has been sailing and working on boats since he was 9 years old.
But MacKenzie says the Naval Academy’s true appeal is the structure.
He likes the idea of staying busy and being constantly challenged.
Besides working 20-30 hours a week on the water, MacKenzie is taking Advanced Placement courses, has played on the SBHS soccer, swim, cross-country and track teams, served at his church as a youth group leader and earned his Eagle Scout, the Boy Scouts’ highest achievement, on Feb. 14.
“I like to do as much as I can, while I can. I like to work hard,” he said.
MacKenzie already envisions a 12-year career in the Navy, earning a degree in electrical or mechanical engineering. He can see signing on for a 20-year career or retiring to start a second career when he is through with his service.
But he’s not trying to get too far ahead of himself.
First he has to go through Plebe Summer at Annapolis. That’s another experience he’s looking forward to.
“They teach you how to act like a midshipman,” he said.
To receive his appointment, MacKenzie had to complete applications, a physical exam and write a personal essay to see if he could be accepted at the Naval Academy.
What he received was early acceptance in a Letter of Assurance from the Naval Academy.
He was deemed Navy material; all he needed was a congressional nomination.
He sought an appointment from Sens. Richard Burr and Kay Hagan and Rep. Mike McIntyre.
MacKenzie interviewed with Hagan’s aides, but received his appointment in January from McIntyre.
MacKenzie’s family moved to Southport from Rhinebeck, N.Y., in 2007. His mother, Robin Hennessey, owner of Southport Sailmakers, brought him and sisters Brynn, 16, Riley, 15, and Keavy, 12, south, following her parents, Bobbie and Brian Hennessey, who own Southport Antiques.
MacKenzie said he’s enjoyed living in Rhinebeck and Southport because they are small, but not too small, towns. He got the same feeling from his visit to Annapolis.
“It’s a bigger version of a small town. There are no skyscrapers, but I think of it as a larger Southport,” MacKenzie said.
MacKenzie graduates from SBHS on June 22. The family will make the trip to Maryland June 25 for Induction Day at the Naval Academy June 27.
“I’m proud and in awe of him,” Robin Hennessey said.
“Induction Day will be the toughest day of my life, but in a good way,” MacKenzie added.
Brian Slattery is a staff writer for The Brunswick Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or email@example.com.