Fort Mill Times

Spotlight on students

Not many high school seniors can say they were accepted to three U.S. military academies, but Indian Land senior Thomas Harris III was.

Harris, 18, ultimately chose the U.S. Naval Academy, to which he was appointed by U.S. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.).

He also was accepted at the U.S. Air Force Academy and at West Point.

"West Point's really nice, and I really liked the school," Harris said. "But there were things like the atmosphere at the Naval Academy that I like better."

Part of that atmosphere, he admitted, could be the fact that he has wanted to be a Marine since he was a child.

"My dad said I should be an officer," he said, so he applied to the academies.

Harris said that watching The History Channel with his father as a child piqued his interest in the military.

He got involved in Boy Scouts when he was young, and he recently became an

Eagle Scout.

For his Eagle project, he chose to build a storage shed for his church, Trinity Presbyterian in Van Wyck.

Harris reports for duty Wednesday, July 1, in Annapolis, Md.

He plans to major in mechanical engineering.

Artist for Marine Corps

In a few months, Fort Mill High School senior Michael Petersheim

will be one of about 12 combat illustrators in the Marine Corps.

That career, he said, was decided through teachers' encouragement and programs at his high school.

Combat illustrators portray an array of Marine activity from drawing actual conflicts to sketching bases where they're stationed.

After moving from Florida, Petersheim entered ninth grade in 2005 as the new kid. Four years later, he said he made his best friends in ROTC.

Two of them will go to boot camp with him before Petersheim heads for his more specialized training.

"I love to draw. I'm very good at art," he said, quickly adding, "That's what people tell me."

He took Advanced Placement Art this year, and he said his teacher, Judi Vokes, has encouraged him and helped him hone his skills.

He's been hired several times to draw portraits for "pocket change," Petersheim said.

So when he was deciding what to do after high school, he looked for a way to blend military with art.

"I just walked up to a recruiter," Petersheim said. " ... He said, 'I have the perfect job for you.'"

He will report for boot camp Monday, June 29.