Taking on the moral, physical and mental challenge: Sacramento girl studies the history of war at the United States Naval Academy

Alexandra Chan is slender and petite with short hair and dark eyes. On first impression, one might think that is someone who might enjoy ballet…not someone who competed in the Navy’s Marine Sea Trials – a grueling 14-hour day of extreme physical endurance testing based on Marine Corps principles.

“I was elated to just finish it,” Chan said. “It was hard.”

Local girl with love of history

ALEXANDRA CHAN is a student at the United States Naval Academy. / Photo courtesy

ALEXANDRA CHAN is a student at the United States Naval Academy. / Photo courtesy

Chan is attending the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Growing up in the Pocket area, she remembers always having an interest in the military. Her favorite subject is history and especially the history of war. As a young child, she watched the Wishbone series on television and her favorite episode was the “Red Badge of Courage,” a story about the American Civil War.

Chan graduated from St. Francis High School in Sacramento. She approached her parents with the idea of attending military school during her sophomore year.

“I was nervous about telling my parents,” Chan said. “But they were very supportive of my decision.”

What sold her on joining the military was being able to attend one of the best schools in the country and not having to pay tuition…plus, she would be serving her country. (The value of a USNA education, if one were to pay for it outright, is nearly $400,000 per student.)

Chan said a friend of hers, Shelby De La Mora – who also graduated from St. Francis High – was the one who convinced her to join the Naval Academy. De La Mora, a senior at St. Francis, had already applied to Annapolis Naval School when Chan was a freshman Troubadour.

Chan took her oath of office on July 1, 2010 and is a member of the USNA Class of 2014. She is working on a Bachelor of Science degree in history. Normally, history is listed as a liberal arts degree. The academy includes additional science and math classes in its program to make it a science degree. She loves her “History of Warfare” class and recently had the opportunity to use her knowledge of the conflict in Afghanistan at a leadership conference in Washington D.C.

“I have the best teachers,” Chan said. “They always make themselves available.”

In shape…physically and morally

Chan enjoys the challenge of having to stay in topnotch shape and likes that morals are part of the education program. A plus are the close relationships she has made at the academy.

“We are taught we have to do the right thing,” Chan said. “I have formed some close relationships because as a group we go through so much together.”

Chan said she has many good role models in the other students and teachers.

Emani Decquir is a junior at the academy and is Chan’s mentor. Both young women had the same recruiting officer and he introduced them to each other.

“If Chan has a problem she knows she can come to me,” Decquir said. “We both have the same type of personalities where we want to do our best.”

THEY’RE NOT TOUGH…NO, NOT MUCH. Pocket resident Alexandra Chan, far left, plays on the USNA Softball Team. / Photo courtesy

THEY’RE NOT TOUGH…NO, NOT MUCH. Pocket resident Alexandra Chan, far left, plays on the USNA Softball Team. / Photo courtesy

Pocket ball…in the Navy

The Pocket area of Sacramento has a strong tradition of girls’ baseball. For seven years, Chan played Little League in the Pocket (for the Marlins, Cubs, Tigers and Reds teams), then played Delta

River League softball for St. Francis. Her love of the sport continues, and she is a member of the Navy Softball team.

Challenging college app

“The process to get accepted into the Navy Academy is rigorous,” Chan said. “I started the paperwork the end of my sophomore year.”

There are several parts in the process.

The first part is filling out the paper work. Required are: the student’s transcripts from high school, SAT scores, a personal statement, two letters of recommendation, plus a nomination from a senator, congressperson, or the vice president or president of the United States.

Congresswoman Doris Matsui wrote Chan’s recommendation.

ALEXANDRA CHAN, seen here with her parents, Shelleyanne Chang and Charles Chan of Sacramento, is in her second year at the United States Naval Academy. / Photo courtesy

ALEXANDRA CHAN, seen here with her parents, Shelleyanne Chang and Charles Chan of Sacramento, is in her second year at the United States Naval Academy. / Photo courtesy

In addition, one must be medically cleared. Chan said this was her biggest hurdle because she must wear corrective lenses. After initially receiving an acceptance letter into the academy, she was medically denied because of her poor vision. Chan didn’t let that stop her and with some persistence on her part, the academy reversed its decision.

Chan said the most challenging part of the program, so far, has been the Sea Trials.

Navy traditions

Chan enjoys the traditions carried out in the military. She is required to attend every football game and the tradition is standing through the whole game.

Chan likes the diversity of the Naval Academy. When she finishes school, Chan said she will have many options available to her.

A prestigious academy

An academy brochure explains the Naval Academy was founded in 1845 and is considered a prestigious four-year service academy that prepares midshipmen morally, mentally and physically to be professional officers in the naval service.

The Academy has more than 4,400 men and women from the United States and several foreign countries that make up the student body. Upon graduation, they serve at least five years as commissioned officers in either the Navy or Marine Corps.

sally@valcomnews.com