Cade Ingleson has come a long way from playing with green Army men in the sandbox.
Just last month, the 17-year-old Petoskey High School senior learned that his many years of hard work and sacrifice had paid off.
He was accepted into the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.
According to Cade's mother, Kelly, her son, who is the third oldest of six children (Harry, 33; Gib, 27; Cade, 17; Heather, 15; Connor, 14; and Reilly, 11), has been interested in the military ever since he was a young boy.
"He and his friends would play in the sand box for hours with Army men," she said. "They would set up intricate battles and flood the tunnels ... he wanted to be a general."
But Cade, who is the son of Hob and Kelly Ingleson of Petoskey, said it was his third-grade teacher at Ottawa Elementary School, Sue Gunderson, who ultimately changed the course of his life.
"She turned me on to (West Point)," he said. "I'd always wanted to do something in the Army, or the military, and Mrs. Gunderson told me, 'You're not going to be an Army man, you're going to be an officer.'
"Then she gave me a book about West Point and I've been fixed on it ever since."
Gunderson, who has been retired for five years, said she was humbled to hear that she had such an impact on Cade.
"It's very emotional," she said. "It's rewarding to know that your students have gone on and done so well.
"Cade was an extremely bright student ... I'm impressed that he's going to go this route, because it's very disciplined -- I know he's going to do well."
Cade said, from that point on, he researched the academy and made strategic moves toward becoming a candidate.
Some activities Cade has participated include: Boy Scouts -- he obtained Eagle Scout in 2010; the Youth Advisory Committee, through the Petoskey-Harbor Springs Area Community Foundation; Peer-to-Peer program; Substance Abuse Free Environment (SAFE) Youth; Student Council; National Honor Society; Model United Nations; Quiz Bowl; as well as playing soccer for Petoskey High School; and travel soccer for several years.
"A lot of the choices I've made academically, in activities and sports, were a lifestyle choice," Cade said. "I worked very hard, made certain choices and gave up certain things ... the end goal was to get into West Point."
Cade said the admission process was grueling.
In February 2010, Cade signed up for a West Point student portal. He worked on numerous essays; had to pass a cadet fitness assessment; receive several letters of recommendation; secure at least one nomination from either a state senator or representative, which required filling out several different applications, writing more essays and being questioned by a panel of political and military leaders.
In addition, Cade also attended a 10-day summer leadership seminar at the end of May and early June at West Point.
While there, he took three classes and participated in physical activities.
"It's beautiful out there," he said. "While I was there, I got a sense of camaraderie with the people I was with -- I can only imagine what it's going to be like when I start."
Kelly said, after the experience, she had some doubts as to whether or not Cade was going to be accepted.
"There was a graduation (at the completion of the leadership seminar), and they asked, 'How many of you are class presidents? How many of you are Eagle Scouts?' Most of the room stood up," she said. "Cade's an incredible kid, but I thought, 'He's standing in a room full of kids as great as himself.'
"So we told him he needed to have a back-up plan."
Cade applied and was accepted to both the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, but he says, a series of recent events turned him right back to his original goal.
During the first week of December, he was notified that he had received a nomination from former Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Menominee, to attend West Point.
"I was very excited, but I was pretty confident I was going to get that one," he said.
Not long after, he received a second nomination from Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.
From there, Cade, started checking his cadet portal at school and noticed something that said, "Nomination offered."
"I called up my admissions officer (for West Point) and he said, 'You beat your mail ... you got in,'" Cade said. "I was geeked up -- I was very excited."
He immediately called his parents. Kelly said she was overwhelmed by the news.
"We're amazed -- we're very proud of him," she said. "It's strange because you live with this kid everyday ... you see his room dirty, you see him fight with his siblings and you don't always get to see them in the light that other people see them.
"I was just stunned."
Jim Kanine, principal for Petoskey High School, said the day Cade learned of his admittance to West Point was one of the best moments of his career.
"When he walked in and told me he got it, it was like winning the lottery," Kanine said. "Cade was beaming, and it's so exciting to see one of your students achieve something this momentous ... it rekindles a lot of your hope."
Cade said he accepted his offer to West Point three days later.
"I thought about it for a little while ... it's such a different lifestyle than other normal colleges, but I have to go for it" he said. "(West Point) is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If it doesn't work out, I can always go to Michigan."
Cade will begin his schooling at West Point on June. 27. Once he completes four years of college and military training, he will graduate with a bachelor of science degree and become a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
From there, he will be required to serve a minimum of five years active duty and three years reserve for the Army.
Cade said he has high expectations of himself.
"I want to do well for myself, but I want to do well for the people who've helped me get to where I am today -- and there's been so many people," he said. "I have a lot to be thankful for."
Kanine said he has no doubt that Cade will make Petoskey proud.
"Cade's a rising star; I think the sky is literally the limit for him," he said. "You just know, if you're on his team, you have a really good chance of being successful.
"I expect greatness from him."
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