|Alex Roth at Culver Military Academy|
One of the great aspects of the Fort Thomas community is the Fort Thomas Independent Schools system. Our schools regularly make the cut on various national and local “best of” lists for education. But just because our schools have a tradition of excellence doesn't mean that they're the best fit for every student. Alex Roth is living proof that students should remember to find the school that fits best for them, even if it isn't in the Fort Thomas district.
Sixteen-year old Roth is preparing to start his academic year at Culver Military Academy, a prestigious military school located in Culver, IN. Roth's interest in Culver came after hearing his father, Marc, reminisce about his days attending Culver's summer camps. “My dad always used to talk about how awesome it was, and how much fun, and how much of a life changer it was for him. We went up and visited once or twice and I thought the campus was really cool, so I wanted to try it out,” said Roth.
After following in his father's footsteps and attending summer camp at Culver, Roth was hooked. (You might remember Roth's fundraising efforts to attend the summer camp by selling "Cookies for Culver" around town.) He enrolled full-time at the Academy for his sophomore year. “I really liked the type of friends I made at Culver and how close I became to them. I really wanted to have that experience full time,” said Roth.
Getting accepted into Culver Military Academy rivals that of college admittance procedures. “At first you need to register to see if you are even accepted, which obviously is a lot of letters, filling out applications, a lot of sending in school papers and medical forms. And then it's to the point of can you even afford it? Now that we're accepted, are we even going to be able to get financial aid? Are we going to get into the Unit that we want? It's process after process,” said Roth.
The school consists of 9 Units (3 Companies, 3 Batteries, 2 Troops, and 1 Band), in which students are given the opportunity to choose which one to enter during their time at Culver. As a member of a Troop Unit, Roth works with horses on a daily basis. “Ever since summer about three years ago, I've been very active in riding with them,” said Roth. “There's about 94 horses in the stables, and those horses range from show jumping to polo to rough riding. Throughout the school year and throughout your time at Culver, you get to ride a lot of different types of horses and find out what the horses are like. You learn how to take care of them.” He also participates in two horsemanship sports – polo and rough riding. Being able to work with horses each day was a big selling point for Roth when deciding to make the transition into becoming a full-time Culver student. “Pretty much everyday I'm riding a horse for at least 2 ½ hours a day. Sometimes it's up to 5, and on the weekends I could be riding all day. I've always loved horses, so I try to fill up my time with them as much as possible,” said Roth.
Roth's experience with horses has allowed him to be a member of the Black Horse Troop. Culver's website states that “as an escort to presidents, emperors, kings, and queens, the Black Horse Troop has represented the Culver Academies to the world for more than one hundred years. In recent years, the Troop has presented at one time as many as ninety riders on mounts selected from a stable of more than 110 black horses.” The Black Horse Troop is best known for having participated in more Presidential Inaugural Parades than any other school. Roth plans to join the Black Horse Troop for their appearance at the 2017 Presidential Inauguration.
Daily life at Culver Military Academy is certainly different than that of a traditional high school. Here, Roth breaks down a typical day at Culver from start to finish: “Since it was my New Cadet year last year, I had to do a lot more cleaning than I have to do this year and next year since I'm returning. As a new kid, I usually woke up at 6:30am to clean my room, get dressed, and take a shower. Then Breakfast Formation was around 7:20 each each morning depending on the day. So that was marching into the dining hall. Breakfast ended around 7:50am, and then after that we would have an inspection before classes started at 8:30am. Then I have four classes a day, but each are one hour and twenty minutes each, so it's a block school schedule. It's pretty different than most schools. Then that ends at 3:15pm. Then you have a break period called Teacher Time, which you can go to any of your teachers and have tutoring time. That's right before Sports, which starts at 4:15pm. From 4:15 until 6:00 you have sports. Then if it's a Thursday, all the units will have Retreat, which lasts about fifteen minutes to honor the lowering of the flag. If it's not Thursday, then between 6:00 and 8:00, I have free time to eat dinner whenever with my friends. We can really go whenever. From 8:00 until 10:00 is dedicated homework time, where you have to be either in the barracks or in the library studying with your friends. And then 10:00 to 11:00 is Closing, and that's just down time you have before you all go to sleep.”
Some of Roth's daily responsibilities at Culver have been performed by new cadets for the past 100 years. According to Marc Roth, Alex's father, “Alex finished his Sophomore year as a Corporal. Next year, his "first make" (rank for the 1st half of the year) will be Stable Sargent. (He will be promoted to Sargent and tasked as the ranking member in the 100 stable horse barn to help prepare all students for military parades.”
There is one similarity between Culver Military Academy and Highlands High School – both institutions take academics very seriously. “They have a very, very good system for preparing students for college,” said Roth, who hopes to major in Computer Science and Engineering at Ohio State University in the future. Culver's teachers and staff are well-connected, and focused on helping students get into their top choice colleges.
The classroom atmosphere, however, is more intimate than some other public and private high schools. “The teacher to student ratio is a lot smaller. I believe it's 11:1. The biggest class I had last year had twenty students in it. I had another class that only had eight of us in there, so it can really vary a lot,” said Roth. Since the school uses block scheduling, the classes are semester-long courses. A Humanities class is the only one that is year-long. “It's not as spread out as a normal school, so you really have to keep with the pace or you're going to fall behind really quickly,” said Roth.
Roth will soon be heading back to northern Indiana to start his next year at Culver. He cites his friends as being one of the things he misses most when away from the Academy. “One of the biggest things you take away from Culver is definitely the friendships,” said Roth. While he's looking forward to reuniting with his friends, there is one thing he definitely isn't excited to do once the school year kicks off again. “I definitely don't like cleaning, obviously,” joked Roth.