Southaven High School senior Benjamin Barulli had a tough decision: Cadet or Midshipman.
While most students interested in a career in the armed forces only dream of earning a spot among the 10 percent of applicants who get into one of America's top military academies, Barulli received full-ride appointments to both the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., and the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.
Pursuing a career in the armed forces has long been Barulli’s goal, partially because of family tradition. His father is a graduate of West Point, and is now a manager with FedEx. Last summer, he visited both campuses, and had a healthy dose of what life would be like academically and physically.
“West Point had a church that was a better fit for me,” Barulli said. “An additional bonus is the Chaplain went to West Point with my Dad and offered my parents a place to stay if I enrolled there.”
The West Point website states, “Students who are ready to change the world through leadership, vision, and duty to country could find that the United States Military Academy at West Point is their best college choice.”
Barulli said he will begin basic training at West Point on July 1 at a school that was established by Thomas Jefferson in 1802.
Graduates of this institution include Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, Douglas MacArthur, and George Patton, to name a few.
Why does Barulli think he was accepted at two of the top colleges in America? "I had good test scores and grades, but most applicants do,” he explained. “I think it helped that I am an Eagle Scout, a fourth-degree Black Belt in Taekwondo, and have more than 400 hours of community service."
Barulli runs cross country at Southaven and teaches Taekwondo, a sport he began when he was four years old. Barulli is active in school and out, playing the French horn for the band since the eighth grade. He is a member of the Key Club, Knowledge Bowl, Chess Club, Fellowship of Christian Students, and National Honor Society.
Another interesting statistic about Barulli is that he has had perfect attendance since he began kindergarten at Greenbrook Elementary School.
“My Mom makes sure I stay healthy and I have never missed a day of school,” he said.
Barulli said he was proud of the fact that his mother was named the ‘Parent of the Year’ in every school he has attended, and was the DeSoto County Schools’ Parent of the Year five years ago.
When friends and acquaintances find out Ben’s decision, their standard response is that his long, golden hair ‘has to go.'
So, on May 24, he is donating his hair to "Hair We Share," the nonprofit that makes wigs for cancer patients. He encourages all that he sees to join him at Delta Technical College to also donate hair or make a financial contribution to the organization, which can be done at this link. CLICK HERE
“Ben has made the grade academically, physically and through leadership,” said principal Shane Jones. “It was no surprise to me that he got appointments to two service academies. “He is self-driven and constantly works to help others.”
Katherine Nelson is Communications Director for DeSoto County Schools.