A Cape Coral High School alumnus recently graduated from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy.
Former Seahawk Alex Coviello, Class of 2008, was honored along with 200 of his fellow cadets on June 17 during a commencement ceremony in Kings Point, N.Y. Supported by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Merchant Marine Academy is one of the nation's five military service academies.
"Coming out of high school, I didn't really know what I wanted to do," Coviello said, adding that he knew he wanted to serve his country and was familiar with the academy through his brother, Ross.
Alex Coviello was one of 200 graduates this year from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. The commencement ceremony was held June 17 in Kings Point, N.Y.
"I knew a lot about it because by brother went there," he said.
Ross Coviello, a Cape High Class of 2002 graduate, completed the academy in 2006.
"He is currently a captain. He operates the big container ships," Coviello said.
A high school football player, Coviello considered going to college after graduating.
"I didn't know what type of career I would have afterward," he said.
The academy, however, offered him several clear career paths and a chance to keep playing ball.
"I had so many options," Coviello said.
"It gave me the opportunity to play football while getting a great education," he said.
While graduates of the other four service academies go directly into active duty for their respective branch, Merchant Marine graduates get to choose between going into active duty or the reserves. The active duty stints are all for eight years, regardless of service academy, as is the stint in the reserves.
Choosing the reserves' path also involves a two-year commitment to the maritime industry.
Rising to company commander at the academy, Coviello was commissioned as an ensign in the U.S. Navy Reserve upon his graduation. He earned a bachelor of science in marine transportation, logistics and intermodal transportation, and he was issued a license to navigate a ship with unlimited tonnage.
"That gives me the authority to operate any ship," he said.
The licenses are issued through the U.S. Coast Guard.
Coviello has secured employment in the offshore supply industry with Otto Candies.
"I'm looking forward to starting my life, starting my career now," he said, adding that the company operates supply vessels and brings supplies to oil drill rigs located in the Gulf of Mexico.
"It's exciting. It's a big accomplishment," Coviello said of graduating. "I'm really proud."
Out of the thousands nationwide that applied the same year he did, an estimated 276 applicants were picked to attend the academy. From the 276 selected, only 201 cadets followed through and graduated.
"We've all been through a lot," Coviello said.
"I made friends for a lifetime," he said.
At the commencement ceremony, Coviello received several awards, including the Midshipman Brian Thomas Roche Memorial Scholarship Award and the Walter Kaminski Character Award. As a company leader, he was in charge of 150 midshipmen and served as a drill instructor and senior drill instructor.
"I helped out a lot of people and made sure things were in order," Coviello said.
He was a starter on the academy's football team all four years, playing both offense and defense. Coviello served as the team's quarterback his junior and senior year, and he had more than 35 career touchdowns. He received the captain's award for leadership and was voted captain of Team USA.
"I was really fortunate this year to be selected to Team USA, Team Stars and Stripes," Coviello said.
He noted that three of his years were hands-on training in school, with the fourth year at sea.
"I went to Djibouti, Africa, Guam, Hawaii," Coviello said. "I've gotten to see a lot of the world."
Cape resident Joe Coviello explained that his sons are the family's first academy graduates.
"As a family, we're very proud of their accomplishments," he said, speaking for his wife, Diane.
"It's not an easy path to take or follow," Joe Coviello said. "They both did well."
He explained that the academy is an excellent option for high schoolers. With today's economy and many college graduates left searching for work, the academy offers viable career paths with jobs.
"In this particular area, there's plenty of opportunities available," Joe Coviello said.
Plus, the Department of Transportation covers the cost and each state has a quota.
"I think the more kids that realize this is a wonderful opportunity (will apply)," he said.
To apply to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, a nomination from a congressman or senator is required. An application must be completed, and there is a review of grades, test scores and letters of recommendation. For more information, visit the academy's Web site online at:www.usmma.edu/.